Tag Archives: exercise

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the study used data from the EPIC Norfolk cohort study, which is tracking the health and wellbeing of thousands of residents of the English county of Norfolk.

The researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at the University of Cambridge found that owning or walking a dog was one of the most effective ways to beat the usual decline in later-life activity, even combatting the effects of bad weather.

Dog owners were sedentary for 30 minutes less per day, on average.

More than 3000 older-adults participating in the study were asked if they owned a dog and if they walked one. They also wore an accelerometer, a small electronic device that constantly measured their physical activity level over a seven-day period.

As bad weather and short days are known to be one of the biggest barriers to staying active outdoors, the researchers linked this data to the weather conditions experienced and sunrise and sunset times on each day of the study.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Yu-Tzu Wu, 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.”

The team found that on shorter days and those that were colder and wetter, all participants tended to be less physically active and spent more time sitting. Yet dog walkers were much less impacted by these poor conditions.

Project lead Prof Andy Jones, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We were amazed to find that dog walkers were on average more physically active and spent less time sitting on the coldest, wettest, and darkest days than non-dog owners were on long, sunny, and warm summer days. The size of the difference we observed between these groups was much larger than we typically find for interventions such as group physical activity sessions that are often used to help people remain active.”

The researchers caution against recommending everyone owns a dog, as not everyone is able to look after a pet, but they suggest these findings point to new directions for programmes to support activity.

Prof Jones said: “Physical activity interventions typically try and support people to be active by focussing on the benefits to themselves, but dog walking is also driven by the needs of the animal. Being driven by something other than our own needs might be a really potent motivator and we need to find ways of tapping into it when designing exercise interventions in the future.”

Source:  University of East Anglia press release

 

Throwaway pups…

This article from the Guardian, Throwaway pup trend makes Britons dogs’ worst enemies is sobering.  It talks about disposable pups, bought with little or no knowledge of how to care for them, and fueling a demand for irresponsible breeding with the subsequent flow-on effects for animal welfare and adoptions.

But what I found really interesting is a quote from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals spokeswoman, Vicki Larkham.  “Millions of dogs aren’t getting off-the-lead exercise outside their home or garden for 10 minutes or more on a daily basis.  Close to a quarter of a million never go for walks on their lead for 10 minutes or more at all.  ”

A minimum of 10 minutes?  Are you kidding?

I support a minimum of 30 minutes, and twice a day.  Most sources I read suggest a minimum of 30 minutes once a day…but 10 minutes?  Where did that come from?

If you think walking a dog for 10 minutes a day will result in a happy, healthy and well-adjusted dog, you are kidding yourself.  Do everyone a favour and don’t get a dog…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Get Healthy, Get a Dog

The Harvard Medical School has published a special health report entitled Get Healthy, Get a Dog:  The health benefits of canine companionship. 

The report details the many ways that dogs can improve the lives of humans.

Get Healthy, Get a DogIn promoting the report, the School says:

There are many reason why dogs are called humans’ best friends: not only do they offer unparalleled companionship, but a growing body of research shows they also boost human health. Owning a dog can prompt you to be more physically active — have leash, will walk. It can also:

  • help you be calmer, more mindful, and more present in your life
  • make kids more active, secure, and responsible
  • improve the lives of older individuals
  • make you more social and less isolated

Just petting a dog can reduce the petter’s blood pressure and heart rate (while having a positive effect on the dog as well).

The report can be purchased in print (US$20), in .pdf electronic version (US$18) or both (US$29) from this webpage.

I’m pleased to see this type of publication coming from such a reputable institution.  Dogs and humans both benefit when  humans take responsibility for a committed and healthy relationship.  I particularly like that the report also covers grief, since we all will face grieving the loss of beloved pet (given the odds – since we live a lot longer than our dogs do).

The chapters in the report include:

  • Our dogs, ourselves
    • Benefits of dog ownership
    • Service dogs
  • How dogs make us healthier
    • Physical activity
    • Cardiovascular benefits
    • Reduced asthma and allergies in kids
    • Psychological benefits
    • How human contact benefits dogs
  • SPECIAL SECTION
    • Nutrition guidelines for dogs
  • Exercise for you and your dog
    • Exercise whys and wherefores
    • The exercise prescription for people
    • Exercise guidelines for dogs
    • Help your dog avoid injuries
    • Walking with your dog
    • Hiking
    • Running
    • Biking
    • Swimming
    • Playing fetch, Frisbee, or flying disc
    • Agility training
    • Skijoring
    • Playing inside the house
  • Adopting a dog
    • Deciding on the qualities you want
    • Breed considerations
    • Finding your dog
  • How to be a responsible dog owner
    • Basic equipment
    • Veterinary care
    • Dogs in cars
    • Providing for your dog while you’re at work
  • Raising a well-behaved dog
    • Obedience training
    • Housetraining
    • Keeping dogs off furniture … or not
    • Soothing the anxious hound
  • Grieving a loss
  • Resources
  • Glossary

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dogs give exercise new meaning for seniors

Photo courtesy of Florida State University

Bogey and his dumb bell.  Photo courtesy of Florida State University

Dogs are adding a new twist to exercise classes at the Westminster Oaks Retirement Community in Florida.  Three times each week, they accompany two doctoral students to an exercise class that is part of a study to look at whether exercising with dogs can lead to better health outcomes.

“Between each exercise, we try to leave a little bit of time so people can pet the dogs and talk to the handlers,” says Ashley Artese, a first-year doctoral student in exercise science.

Volunteers for the study at Westminster Oaks were split into two groups of seven. One exercises with dogs trained by Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s pet therapy program. The other group exercises without them.

Walking around the room, biceps curls with light dumb bells and resistance band stretching are all a part of the routine.  When the group working with dogs lift their dumb bells,  dog Bogey picks up a plastic one. And when the seniors walk around the room, Lola, Stryker and Bogey walk in circles too.

“Exercise classes are not something I call fun, but with the dogs, it is fun,” said Mary Stevenson, a Westminster Oaks resident.  When she heard the exercise class would involve dogs, it caught her interest.

In addition to Lola, Stryker and Bogey, there are four other dogs — Cosmo, Casey, Kayla and Zachy.

For now, all of the work is on a volunteer basis, but all of the parties involved hope it will turn into a funded research study in the future.  At the end of this program, the professors and doctoral students will review the data to see how it might translate into a large-scale study.

Source:  Florida State University media release

Benefits of having a dog in your life

Daisy portrait

Some of the great benefits of owning a dog are:

  1. Reduction of stress
  2. They make you exercise
  3. They provide unconditional love
  4. And on top of this, they boost self esteem (even after a bad day at work, they love you!)
  5. When life is hard, they teach you the value of play
  6. Because they love you, they provide safety & security
  7. They provide a sense of belonging – you’re packmates!
  8. On top of everything, the act of petting a dog is proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate

Enjoy your weekend.  Have you hugged your dog today?

Nelson City responds to dog owners

Here’s an example of democracy in action in the city of Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand.

The Council consulted on revisions to its dog bylaws and dog owners responded about the unnecessary restrictions.

On 3 May, the Council announced “Nelson City Council has responded to submissions on its Dog Control Policy and Bylaw Review by developing a new proposal based on feedback from submitters.”

Deputy Mayor Ali Boswijk said, “Ultimately, the dog bylaw we are proposing will take a default position where dogs can be off-leash everywhere, except areas which are identified as prohibited or on-lead.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and perhaps we should have spent more time talking with the wider community before we drafted the original Statement of Proposal. This is a good learning for us and something we will take on board in future.”

The new summary of Council’s preferred direction for the Dog Control Policy and Bylaw:

  • Dogs to be prohibited from the part of Marsden Valley Reserve to the east of the Barnicoat Walkway
  • Retain Girlies Hole and Black Hole as swimming holes for dogs during summer (December to March) and allow dogs in all holes during the remainder of the year
  • Add Sand Island to the list of dog prohibited areas
  • Dogs to be prohibited from the Maitai Cricket Ground during the cricket season but they can exercise there from April to September.
  • The shared pathways (Railway Reserve and Atawhai Shared Pathway) will become off-leash areas
  • The Maitai Walkway to remain an off-leash area for dogs
  • Seventeen neighbourhood reserves will remain on-lead areas for dogs as requested by submitters
  • The Good Dog Owner Policy will be amended with input from the Dog Owner’s Group and other interested parties.

In addition, Council is looking at establishing a dedicated dog park at Saxton Field where dogs can exercise off-lead.

Well done to the Nelson City Council for recognising that its constituents wanted something else for dogs and their owners and well done to all who submitted on the dog control bylaw.

If you don’t participate in your local community to represent your interests and the interests of dog owners in general, be prepared for restrictions that will inhibit your ability to socialise your dog and enjoy their company in public places.

Perhaps a lesson for dog owners elsewhere in NZ and overseas?

Exercise for small dogs

Sometimes people forget that small dogs have different needs for their care and exercise than larger breed dogs.  Here’s some tips on how to keep your small breed dog happy and active.

  • Walking

Walking is ‘tops’ on my list for exercise for all dogs.  There are added health benefits for the dog owner, too. I recommend twice per day walks.  You need to be careful about the length of walk for small dogs because they may not be able to go as far as you can.

  • Swimming

I’m a big supporter for hydrotherapy for dogs, particularly as they age or have rehabilitation needs.  But, swimming is excellent general exercise for your small breed dog.  Check out hydrotherapy facilities in your area for information on ‘casual’ swims (therapist supervision not required).  In Christchurch, we have an excellent facility for this:  Dog Swim Spa.

  • Ball games – playing fetch

Small dogs can get quite a bit of exercise in by playing with toys and their owners.  This is great inside exercise during the winter months – provided you have a long hallway or room for your dog to play in.

  • Using the stairs

If your house has stairs or you can take your dog to work with you, using the stairs can be excellent exercise for your small breed dog.    Some breeds, such as dachshunds, should not be encouraged to do lots of stair climbing because their long spine makes them vulnerable to stress and strain injuries including slipped discs.    Be mindful of just how much effort a small dog may need to climb a stair designed for full-grown humans.  Aging dogs with arthritis should avoid stair climbing as a major source of exercise – there are better options as described above.