TUESDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Owning a dog may do your heart good, literally.
New research shows that people who own dogs are about 34 percent more likely to get the recommended minimum amount of exercise each week, thanks to their furry friends.
"Dogs can be a great motivator for physical activity. People who walk their dogs, walk more. They walk about an hour longer each week," said study author Mathew Reeves, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Reeves, who is also a veterinarian, added that the public health problem of obesity affects both humans and pets, and said there are "just as many health benefits from walking for the pet as for the owner." So, he suggested, even if you can't seem to get moving to improve your own health, maybe keeping your canine healthy will be the motivator you need.
The findings are published in the March issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
For their analysis, Reeves and his colleagues reviewed data from the 2005 Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey that included responses from almost 6,000 people.
Forty-one percent of the respondents owned a dog. Of those, almost two-thirds reported walking their dog for at least 10 minutes at a time. The remaining one-third didn't regularly walk their dogs.
Overall, dog owners were 69 percent more likely to get any leisure-time physical activity than non-dog owners, and they were 34 percent more likely to meet the U.S. government-recommended physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week.
"When you look at dog walkers, only 27 percent get the 150 minutes of activity benchmarks, so dog walkers could probably be walking more often and can walk longer," said Reeves. "And, for the almost 40 percent of dog owners who didn't walk at all, they really should be wa
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