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Arthritis Today

Dog Walking May Lead to Big Health Benefits

Take Fido out and relieve arthritis symptoms.

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Those daily strolls with your dog do more than get his tail wagging: They can also improve your health.

Research from Michigan State University found that dog owners who took their pets for walks were 34 percent more likely to meet the government recommendation for physical activity – at least 150 minutes per week – than those who didn’t.

“There’s definitely something special about dogs. They are inherently active animals,” says Cindy Lentino, an exercise scientist at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, DC. “Dogs give owners a sense of purpose in that they need to be walked and humans need exercise.“

In a separate study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Lentino and her team showed that dog walkers had lower body mass index, BMI, and fewer chronic conditions and depressive symptoms than their counterparts. They were also three times less likely to have diabetes, sat less every day and had more social support.

“You are getting upper body work by holding the dog and a lower body workout by walking, and best of all you get social interaction,” says Bashir Zikria MD, assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution in Baltimore.

Dr. Zikria says dog walking also solves one of the most difficult parts of an exercise plan – starting it.

“The hardest thing about working out is often getting that set schedule. You can easily say I’m not doing it today,” Dr. Zikria says. “But when you have a dog, you know you have to walk them. It gives you a set schedule. You can’t give excuses because you can’t let the dog down. It’s an obligation.”

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