Can dog ownership help lower the childhood obesity rates in America?

Jodi Davis

| 3 min read

Dogs are recognized as man’s best friend, but did you know that they may also have a very special role when it comes to the children in your family? Research has shown that children from dog-owning families actually exercise more than youngsters from those families who don’t own a four-legged friend!
Yes, your family dog has a big influence on the amount of daily physical activity a child receives. In fact, these youngsters in a house with a dog are 50 percent more likely to receive the daily physical activity level that is recommended for them … all because of their canine companion!
The University of Western Australia did the research and discovered that the children who owned a dog walked about a half hour more per week than those who did not, but that’s not all. The time spent playing and enjoying physical activity was also longer for dog owners compared to time spent exercising by kids whose families did not own a dog, about 140 minutes per week.
“Kids that do have a dog in their home are walking more and doing more overall physical activity,” said Hayley Christian from the university’s Centre for the Built Environment and Health.
The research also showed that 55 percent of the kids who owned a dog walked them in the last week, and a large percentage of those children walked the dogs without an adult accompanying them. This is good for the overall development of a child, which includes skills related to problem solving and an added boost of self-esteem along with a feeling of independence.
If there was a rooftop tall enough, I’d be on top of it shouting this to every kid in town, “Hey kids, walk your dog every day!”
And if you are the parent in a dog-owning family, walk the dog everyday as well. It not only benefits your health, but walking is also good for your four-legged friend’s health.
If you don’t own a dog, maybe take some time to consider adopting one. There are countless homeless pets in animal shelters across Michigan; but, please remember that owning a dog takes a generous amount of time, commitment, obligation and financial responsibility. Pet ownership also takes a whole lot of love … which is truly the best part of all! Not only will you be bringing much joy and added hours of physical activity to your family (and the dog) but you could also be doing your part to help lower the obesity rates in this nation of ours.
“The potential to increase physical activity and have some sort of impact on the obesity epidemic could be part of the solution (to obesity),” Dr Christian commented.
Dogs, they’re more than a four-legged family friend … they are a part of the “obesity solution!”
Photo credit: Markus Kolb

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