As if you needed another reason to add a dog to your family, research has found another way that dogs are good for your health.
Want to get healthier? You can start eating better, head to the gym more often, or make a point of turning off the TV and spending more time outside. Or, you could just get a dog.
We already know that dogs are good for your health. They can reduce stress levels and provide valuable companionship. They've been linked to lower blood pressure in their owners, and having dogs in the family can help to reduce the risk of child asthma. Dog owners also tend to be more active than your typical human, since dogs need exercise and plenty of playtime.
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According to a new study, there's another important way that dogs can contribute to your health. Truth is, owning a dog makes people much more active during the winter. It's easy to curl up on the couch when the wind is biting and the snow is flying - but it's not so easy to stay there all night long when you have a dog.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Center for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge recently designed a study focused on 3,123 participants between the ages of 49 and 91. Almost 20% of the participants owned a dog, and study participants wore an accelerometer for seven days.
The results were eye-opening. Participants who didn't own a dog spent about 30 more minutes a day being sedentary than participants who walked their dogs. All study participants were less active on cold days with more precipitation. However, dog owners were still more active on cold weather days than participants who didn't have dogs were on the nicest days.
Dog owners got about 12 minutes more activity on the cold, wet days than non-dog owners did on the nice, sunny days.
That's a big difference, especially if you consider the effect over the course of an entire winter, or over the course of an entire year.
In short? Owning a dog keeps us motivated and accountable. Dogs depend on us for exercise, and that may be the motivating factor to getting us off of the couch and out into the rain or snow - even if it's only for a short time.
Do you find that your dog keeps you more active? Tell us in the comments below.
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