Dog owners over the age of 65 act 10 years younger than their biological age

July 18, 2014 by Gayle Cook

(Medical Xpress)—Owning a dog makes older people fitter and healthier, according to new research from the University of St Andrews.

The research, published in the journal Preventative Medicine, found that over the age of 65 act 10 years younger than their biological age.

The study, led by Dr Zhiqiang Feng also found that owning a dog can also have a on an 's metal health.

Previous studies have looked at the positive benefits of on the elderly, with dog owners being shown to have fewer symptoms of depression and decreases in blood pressure and heart rate. However, this is the first study to look properly at levels of in the over 65 group.

Dr Feng commented, "It is well known that pet ownership may help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression in , but one area that has received little attention is the effect of dog ownership on the of the elderly.

"Our results show that dog ownership is associated with an increased level of physical activity in the over-65s. On average, older dog owners were 12% more active than their counterparts who did not own a dog."

Dr Feng monitored the activity of 547 elderly people in Tayside, with an average age was 79. Of those who took part, 9% – around 50 people – were dog owners, and 75% of these walked their dogs.

Over a seven-day period participants were asked to wear an accelerometer which measured their movements. Of the group, the dog owners were not only more physically active, but their levels of activity were the equivalent of people ten years younger.

The length of the walk did not make any difference to the positive effects of dog walking. Of those who took part, the dog owners on average showed significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Dr Feng, a senior lecturer at the School of Geography and Geosciences continued, "Our results suggest that may motivate personal activity and enable older people to overcome many potential barriers such as lack of social support, inclement weather and concerns over personal safety."

In the new report, Dr Feng recommends dog-loaning and walking groups as possible ways of non-dog owners experiencing the benefits felt by dog owners.

Where this is not feasible, it may be possible to replicate some benefits via other mechanisms such as 'nudging' devices that replicate the dog-owner relationship.

He said, "Our findings suggest that there may be merit in investigating whether

dog 'owning' or 'loaning' might be a plausible public health intervention to promote physical activity.

"It may also be possible to combine an electronic device with a community, such as a walking social group linked through social media. However, further research is needed to investigate whether older adults are open and able to use new technologies.

"Our study is especially relevant in our increasingly ageing society and it is never too late for sedentary older people to take up exercise. However effective intervention schemes in promoting and increasing physical activity still remain a global public health challenge."

Explore further: Politically driven legislation targeting dangerous dogs has had little impact

More information: Zhiqiang Feng, Chris Dibben, Miles D. Witham, Peter T. Donnan, Thenmalar Vadiveloo, Falko Sniehotta, Iain K. Crombie, Marion E.T. McMurdo, "Dog ownership and physical activity in later life: A cross-sectional observational study," Preventive Medicine, Volume 66, September 2014, Pages 101-106, ISSN 0091-7435, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.06.004.

Related Stories

Politically driven legislation targeting dangerous dogs has had little impact

July 17, 2014
UK legislation that targets 'dangerous dogs' has not been shown to reduce dog bites and policies should be based on evidence and risk assessment, suggests a personal view published in the BMJ today.

Pets may help reduce your risk of heart disease

May 9, 2013
Having a pet might lower your risk of heart disease, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement.

To make new friends, walk the dog

July 30, 2013
Dog-walking is one of the top five ways to meet new people, according to research at The University of Western Australia.

Owning a dog encourages exercise in pregnant women

February 15, 2012
The study of more than 11,000 pregnant women, in partnership with Mars Petcare, showed that those who owned dogs were approximately 50% more likely to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day through high levels ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.