Study suggests dog owning teens get more exercise

by Mark James on March 16, 2011

A recent study conducted in the United States has indicated that teenagers who are part of a family which has a pet dog will get more exercise than those who do not own a pet.

However, Jon Sirard, who is a professor of kinesiology – or the science of human movement – at the University of West Virginia, which carried out the study, was keen not to read too much into the results. His cautious conclusion was that there seems to be a connection between teenage physical activity and owning a dog, but could not say exactly what it was.

The survey, which was about the ownership of exercise equipment in US households, concluded that man’s best friend could be considered as such a piece of equipment – in other words, a lovable, smelly, four-legged cross-trainer.

There have been lots of studies which point to dog ownership as being beneficial for health, whether it is the increased amount of physical exercise a dog owner gets when walking his pet, or the stress busting hormones released by the brain when stroking a dog. In this latest study, 618 sets of teenagers and parents wore a piece of apparatus to measure how active they were. Over the course of two years, it was found that the teens who belonged to dog-owning families participated in 32.1 minutes of activity per day, as opposed to the 29.5 minutes of dogless households.

Professor Sirard said of the results:

“Anything we can do to tip the balance in favour of more physical activity is going to be a good thing, even though it’s not the magic bullet.”

As encouraging as the figures are, American dog owners still have some work to do to reach the recommended one hour of daily physical activity with their pet, and a recent study of obesity in American cats and dogs has shown that more than half can be classed as obese.

We at Dream Dogs think that slipping a dog collar on your pet and handing the leash to the kids is an excellent way to get a moody teenager out from under your feet for an hour, or a few hours if it’s a border collie.

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