Why a dog could be the perfect prescription to age-related health concerns

arthritis and exerciseIt has long since been recognised that dog owners are healthier than those of us who do not own dogs and now the correlation between dog ownership and healthier people is scientifically proven in two recent studies.

A daily walk with your four-legged friend ensures regular, gentle exercise; a recent study found that dog owners walk for 22 minutes more per day on average and, what’s more, they did so at a moderate pace which is just as effective as running in lowering the risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.

The responsibility of owning a dog means that you can’t make an excuse of bad weather, either. According to research reported recently in the British Medical Journal, owning a four-legged canine friend is likely to be the catalyst needed to encourage adults to get outside and do some exercise.

When compared with the amount of regular exercise undertaken by non-dog owners, the BMJ reports that “regular dog walkers were more active and less sedentary on days with the poorest conditions than non-dog owners were on the days with the best conditions. In days with the worst conditions, those who walked their dogs had 20% higher activity levels than non-dog owners and spent 30 min/day less sedentary.”

Arthritis and exercise: medically prescribed dogs?

Some researchers have taken these findings one step further and have recommended that the advantage of getting outside for exercise each day is so beneficial; dogs should actually be prescribed to older people as a way of keeping them active and physically fit.

The interesting thing about this research is that although the findings don’t reveal anything that we didn’t know before (taking regular gentle exercise works wonders for your health as you get older) what it does show is the true extent of just how good even 30 minutes of exercise per day can be for your overall health and wellbeing.

It is especially helpful for keeping your weight at a healthy level, as if you’re carrying too much weight as you get older then this can increase the amount of pressure and strain on your joints, which can in turn lead to the development, or increase, of conditions such as osteoarthritis. For osteoarthritis suffers, the surfaces of the joints become damaged and are not able to move as freely as they used to. This is painful and can cause restricted mobility, which in turn can make it harder to exercise. It becomes a vicious cycle.

If you’re already living a more sedentary lifestyle it will be harder to introduce exercise into your routine once your joints begin to cause problems. However, if you’re undertaking regular gentle exercise as you get older, not only should this help keep problem conditions at bay for longer, but if you start to experience the tell-tale signs of osteoarthritis, it will be easier to manage the condition if you’re already leading a healthier, more active lifestyle.