Can Dog Walking Be Good For Your Health?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  June 30, 2016

What has four legs and is good for your health? A dog! It may not be new information to learn that dogs make great best friends, but who knew that furry friendship might actually be the key to better senior care?

A recent study conducted by the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine analyzed data on the association between dog walking and physical health from four years of surveys, explained Medical News Today. Interestingly enough, the research found that their wasn't just a connection between the extra activity that benefited physical health, but pet owners also saw improvements in mental health. 

The physical and mental benefits of dog walking.
MNT reported that it's important for adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, and for many seniors this is easily achieved by taking a quick stroll around the block. Because dogs require exercise, they act as a good reason for seniors to get out the house. Some of the data the researchers gathered found that dog walkers tended to have lower body mass index and needed fewer doctor visits than those who did not routinely exercise.

When you're out walking a dog, more people are inclined to come up to you. That's not science, that's just a fact! Having a friendly pooch with you opens you up to more socializing - people of all generations love to say hello and learn more about your furry companion. So while you're benefiting from the exercise, you're also actively working to reduce depression and loneliness. These social benefits associated with owning a dog greatly improve the mental wellbeing of seniors. And, it is widely known that a dog provides unconditional love to its caring owner, and that relationship also does wonders for elder care.

Though the causation of this study is still somewhat speculative, leader of the study Professor Rebecca Johnson spoke with The Washington Post regarding her confidence in findings of this study.

"The whole body of literature on dog ownership … indicates that the dog is unconditionally loving. They are a social lubrication, meaning other people talk to people if they're out walking their dog. They're a bridge to other generations," she explained. 

But you have to be able to walk the walk.
Before you get a dog, it's important to assess your own health. The Washington Post pointed out that you have to be able to not just take your dog on regular walks, but you also have to be able to afford things like veterinarian and food bills. However, it was equally important that owners actually create a bond with their pup, so it's crucial to find the right match for you should you decide your best form of senior care is a dog.

Puppies can be especially hard work for seniors because they require extra TLC - training, love and care, that is. However, if you're considering getting a dog it doesn't necessarily have to be a puppy. Rescuing a senior dog is a great option for both of you! 

According to Pets for Patriots, animal shelters and humane societies are in a constant state of need for adoption of older dogs as these animals face the highest rate of euthanasia. True, older dogs have less years to give, but that does not mean they have less love to give. These dogs often fit the right temperament and personality for seniors as they are already trained and less demanding, therefore they fit easily into your daily routine. Visit your nearest shelter if you think you're ready and able to adopt - employees are trained to help you find the right pet for you and your lifestyle. 

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