Dogs aren’t fitness trackers. Yes, they’ll let you know when they need to go out, but if your plans for adopting a dog are only to motivate yourself to exercise, think again. Dogs are just as susceptible to humanity’s growing weight problem. But a new study shows that owners are willing to act when they realize their pets’ lives are at risk.
There’s a common myth that dog owners are fit. Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times highlights several studies with contradictory findings on this subject. One from 2013 reports that dog owners spend an hour more per week walking than people without dogs. While another from 2008 found that close to a quarter of dog owners never walked their pets–getting less exercise than those without a dog. However, there’s one study that shows promise for owners that have slipped into a sedentary lifestyle, and their pet with them. Veterinarians and physicians at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences conducted a study that found dog owners were willing to make lifestyle changes if it was for the sake of their dog’s health.
The researchers gathered 32 dog owners to participate in the study. The dogs were considered obese according to each ones age, size, and breed, and all had adopted a sedentary lifestyle—much like their owners. The group was split into two: One group was told by a veterinarian that they needed to keep an eye on their dog’s health and nutrition, while the other group was told their dog was overweight and needed more exercise. The latter group was given a prescription that required 30 minutes of walking every day for their dog.
After three months, the dogs and their owners were evaluated, showing that both groups–humans and dogs–had lost weight.
“Based on our findings, both groups increased physical activity and [body condition scores] decreased significantly, and veterinarian-based counseling may have impacted these changes.”
Capt. Mark B. Stephens M.D., a Professor of Family Medicine and co-author of the study, had his own take on the findings, stating:
“…love and concern for a dog can be a powerful motivation for exercise.”
Read more at New York Times
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