The UK would be less active without man’s best friend, research suggests.
Dog owners are around four times more likely to meet weekly activity targets than people without one, according to a study published in journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool found that 87.3% of people with dogs exercised for 150 minutes per week, compared with 62.7% of those without a canine pet.
Dog owners walked more frequently and for longer periods, and this activity was in addition to – not instead of – other exercise, the study found.
“Our findings provide support for the role of pet dogs in promoting and maintaining positive health behaviours such as walking,” the researchers said.
“Without dogs, it is likely that population physical activity levels would be much lower.”
UK guidelines say adults should do 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week.
The researchers analysed activity levels in a community in west Cheshire, with the sample comprising 191 dog owners, 455 people without a dog and 46 children.
Dog owners walked with their pets for a median average of seven times and 220 minutes per week, the study found.
They were more likely to report jogging or running without their pet than non-dog owners, but less likely to take part in yoga or pilates.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of dog owners walked their pet for at least 150 minutes per week – higher than the 27% reported in a US study.
The researchers suggest this due to the warmer US climate, which means many pets are kept outside and self-exercise.
“Our pet dogs play an important role in keeping us healthy and this should be recognised and facilitated,” the researchers said.
“However, this should not be interpreted to as a recommendation for people to go out and get a dog purely for their own benefit. Dog welfare needs must be carefully considered.”