Study suggests older people should be given dogs on prescription to boost activity

A new study suggests that older people should be given dogs on prescription to help increase their outdoor activity.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia (UEA) found that owning or walking a dog was one of the most effective ways to beat the usual decline in later-life activity. It even encouraged the elderly to get out and about in bad weather, boosting mood and improving health.

More than 3000 older-adults participating in the study were asked if they owned a dog and if they walked one.

The study found that those with a pet were active for 30 minutes longer a day on average, far more than the researchers were expecting.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Yu-Tzu Wu from the University of Cambridge, said: “We know that physical activity levels decline as we age, but we’re less sure about the most effective things we can do to help people maintain their activity as they get older.

“We found that dog walkers were much more physically active and spent less time sitting overall. We expected this, but when we looked at how the amount of physical activity participants undertook each day varied by weather conditions, we were really surprised at the size of the differences between those who walked dogs and the rest of the study participants.”

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