Dog owners spent close to 300 minutes each week walking with their dogs, about 200 more minutes of walking than people without dogs.
Dog owners are about four times more likely than other people to meet today’s physical activity guidelines, according to a large-scale new study of dogs and exercise.
The study, which involved hundreds of British households, suggests that having a dog can strongly influence how much people exercise. But it also raises questions about why some dog owners never walk their pets or otherwise work out and whether any of us should acquire a dog just to encourage us to move.
Most people who live with dogs, including me, are familiar with their joy at ambling along paths, trails and sidewalks. We also have to deal with their jowly dejection when our work deadlines or other issues interfere with walks.
Few of us would be surprised that past studies have found links between dog ownership and frequent walking. But many of those studies have been small and relied solely on people’s sometimes-unreliable recall of their exercise routines. They also have not looked at whether walking a dog might displace other kinds of physical activity, which would mean that dog owners were not exercising more, in total, than other people; only that they were exercising more often with a dog.