Owning a dog is good for your health, study says

Owning a dog is good for your health, study says

There's plenty to love about dogs. Unless you're allergic to them or have had a particularly bad experience, I believe almost anyone can be converted into a dog lover as long as they're in the company of one long enough.

Coming home from a long day at work to a companion that over the moon to see you is certainly good for your mental health, but it turns out that owning a dog can be beneficial to your physical health too.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool - in collaboration with Lancaster University, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Western Australia - recently conducted a study that backed up this notion. Dr. Carri Westgarth and colleagues analysed the physical activity of 385 households in West Cheshire, including 191 dog owners, 455 without a dog, and 46 children.

A woman and her Dalmatian dog out for a walk on an idyllic woodland path. Credit: Getty

The study found that people in the UK would be considerably less active if it wasn't for dogs. The NHS recommends around 150 minutes of exercise a week - and the study revealed that 87.3% of dog owners hit this target, while only 62.7% of those without dogs did.

Dog owners reportedly walk their pets a median average of seven times and 220 minutes per week, and were also found to jog and run on their own more often.

Girl playing with dog on beach Credit: Getty

“Our findings provide support for the role of pet dogs in promoting and maintaining positive health behaviours such as walking," Dr. Westgarth said. "Without dogs, it is likely that population physical activity levels would be much lower."

"Our findings provide support for the role of pet dogs in promoting and maintaining positive health behaviours such as walking. Without dogs, it is likely that population physical activity levels would be much lower.

"The health benefits of dog ownership should be recognised and facilitated through the provision of dog-supportive walking environments and pet-friendly housing; failure of planning and policy makers to provide these may significantly damage population levels of physical activity."

In addition to this, Westgarth pointed out that this wasn't a recommendation for people to become dog owners purely for this reason, as "dog welfare needs must be carefully considered".

The effects documented in this study are far greater in the UK than similar studies in both the United States and Australia. A recent study revealed that 64% of dog owners in the UK reported that they walked with their dogs for at least 150 minutes each week. Meanwhile, only 27% of dog walkers in the United States  reached this same target.