Dog owners are driven by the need to care for their pets rather than just exercising for their own benefit, a study has found.Picture: Pixabay
SCIENTISTS want dog-lending available on prescription to boost activity levels and health among older people.

A study shows that older dog owners are far more physically active than other pensioners - but not everyone has the health or the living space to keep man’s best friend at home.

Physical inactivity in later life is linked to serious health issues including higher risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia.

In a study for the universities of East Anglia and Cambridge, 3123 adults in Norfolk with average age of 69.5 years wore a pedometer for a week and listed their regular activities.

Nearly one in five of the group owned a dog, and two-thirds of these said they walked it at least once a day.

People in the study spent an average of 11 hours a day sitting down. Regular dog walkers were 20% more active and spent 30 fewer minutes each day sitting than people with no dogs, even on days with bad weather.

Study chief Prof Andy Jones said: “We were amazed to find dog walkers were on average more physically active and spent less time sitting on the coldest, wettest and darkest days than non-dog owners were on long, sunny and warm summer days.”

The study, published in the BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, concluded that dog owners are driven by the need to care for their pets rather than just exercising for their own benefit.

It welcomes existing schemes such as the internet-based Borrow My Doggy.

The research paper adds: “In cases where dog ownership is not possible but where the functional status allows, dog-walking opportunities for older adults who do not own a dog could be organised by local community organisations or charities, and dog-walking groups may provide wider wellbeing benefits associated with increased social contact.” - Daily Mail