Dogs are better walking companions than humans on almost all counts, a new study shows, with the possible exception of conversation (though I generally favor them in that category as well).
Research at the University of Missouri has found that people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise, walk at a brisker (therefore more healthy) pace, and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion, according to the New York Times health blog, “Well.”
In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a 5-day-a-week walking program — 23 walking with a friend or spouse, 12 walking dogs at a local animal shelter.
The dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers.
“The improvement in walking speed means their confidence in their walking ability had increased and their balance had increased. To have a 28 percent improvement in walking speed is mind boggling,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Johnson said the dog walkers were far more consistent in sticking with the program than those who were walking with humans: “In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking,” she said. “Missouri is a hot state. We would hear them saying: ‘It’s hot today. I don’t want to walk, do you?’ ”
The dog walkers, on the other hand, were nearly always up for the task:
“When the people came to the animal shelter, they bounced off the bus and said, ‘Where’s my dog?”’ Johnson said. “And the dogs never gave any discouragement from walking.”
The study, not yet published, is continuing, and Johnson said she suspects differences will show up in other areas, like depression and anxiety.
Already, though, Johnson said, many people in the dog-walking group stopped using canes and walkers. “They would say, ‘Now I’m physically fit enough to take my dog for a walk,”’
Posted by John Woestendiek December 16th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adults, assisted living, balance, better, center, college of veterinary medicine, companions, confidence, dog, dog walking, dogs, fitness, health, human animal interaction, humans, improvement, older, rebecca a. johnson, research, speed, study, university of missouri, walk, walking