Older people should be given dogs on prescription to increase activity

first_imgEven the Queen walks her dogs regularly Credit:DAVID HARTLEY/REX/Shutterstock Dog walkers at Ampthill Park near Bedford  Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “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,” said lead author of the paper, Dr Yu-Tzu Wu from the University of Cambridge.“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.”As adults age, they tend to become less active. In Britain it is estimated that fewer than half of older adults engage in the recommended weekly quota of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity.The researchers also linked the findings to the weather conditions experienced and sunrise and sunset times on each day of the study and found that on colder and wetter days all participants tended to be less physically active and spent more time sitting.Yet dog walkers were much less impacted by the miserable weather and their physical activity levels were typically 20 per cent higher than those without pets. Project lead Prof Andy Jones from UEA’s Norwich School of Medicine 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 team suggest that dog ownership or community schemes for dog walking could be prescribed to older people by GPs to help the get more exercise.Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health they conclude that dog walking: “may have considerable potential to support the maintenance of physical activity in older adults and could form part of exercise on prescription schemes.”Where dog ownership is not possible, the researchers say the elderly should be encouraged to sign up for schemes such as Borrow My Doggy, a nationwide UK network, which allows people to walk other people’s pets.Prof Jones added: “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.”Caroline Moye, Head of World Cancer Research Fund, added : “It’s great to see that something as simple as dog walking can help older people be more active.”Being physically active is extremely important. In fact, our own evidence has shown that it can help reduce the risk of developing a number of cancers including breast and bowel.”center_img Older people should be given dogs on prescription to help increase their outdoor activity, a new study suggests.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.They also wore an accelerometer, a small electronic device that constantly measured their physical activity level over a seven-day period.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. Dog walkers at Ampthill Park near Bedford Credit: Tristan Potter / Newsteam Even the Queen walks her dogs regularly last_img read more