Dogs are good for kids’ health

Most parents have, at some stage, been asked by their children if they can have a dog. The standard answer to that, and an answer that I myself received many times when I was about six years of age, is “we’ll see” – which is parent speak for ‘no’.

However, like me many children keep on about having a dog and try to wear their parents down. I was successful, and we got a Yorkshire terrier named Sadie. Had I known then what I know now however, my quest for a dog may have been much quicker – as it appears that dogs are great for the health of children, and obesity in children (which is a major problem, especially in the UK) is lower when the children own a dog.

Child Obesity in the USA is also a major problem, and according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an incredible 17% of children aged between 2 and 19 are clinically obese. The obesity rate among children aged between 6 and 19 has tripled in the past 20 years.

Now for the science bit:

Research was conducted by boffins from St George’s University of London to see how energy levels and activity levels in school children varied. The research looked at 2,065 school children aged between 9 and 10, and the research lasted for seven days.

The children included in the study came from different schools around the country, including schools in London and Birmingham – and 202 of the children involved had dogs in their family.

Children walking a dog

Now, the results revealed that those children who owned dogs would spend an additional 11 minutes per week on average doing physical activities than those children who didn’t own dogs. They spent a total of 325 minutes every day on physical activities, such as running around, playing and walking.

In addition the research showed that children who owned dogs spent 11 fewer minutes each week being sedentary (which is kind of obvious if you do the maths). Breaking it down to the base level, children who own dogs were found to take 4% more steps each week than non dog owners – an additional 360 steps.

One of the researchers, Christopher Owen, commented:

“The more active lifestyles of children from dog-owning families [are] really interesting – is it that owning a dog makes you more active or that more active families choose to have a dog?. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg question. Long-term studies are needed to answer it, but it may be a bit of both.”

“If children really are going for walkies with their dog, this may be one way to encourage more kids to be active.”

So if your child asks you if they can have a dog, think of their future and say yes!


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