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There are dog people, and there are the rest. And as strange as it may seem, dog lovers could really be onto something.
New data suggests that dog owners may enjoy some health benefits that lovers of other animals, and those who don’t wish to care for a pet, do not. The companionship of a dog seems to offer a defense to disability and encourage more graceful aging.
So, if you’re struggling to get up for the 6 AM winter walk with your canine, try and remember it could be doing a lot for you.
The benefits of dog ownership were notable compared to cat owners or anyone who had ever owned a pet. The reasons may have something to do with the unique relationship between dogs and humans.
For example, what other pet do you walk? I’ve definitely seen people walking their cat, but those people are special. With a dog, though, multiple walks every day are the norm. It gives owners a reason to be active a few times a day, which has measurable benefits to heart health.
But this study looked specifically at disability. And once again, when people get up and move, mobility, balance, and musculature are more easily maintained.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 11,200 Japanese adults between the ages of 65 and 84 between June 2016 and January 2020. During that time, dog owners were about helped as likely to have a disability as those that never owned a dog. Dog owners who exercised regularly had an even lower risk.
They concluded that “the daily care, companionship, and exercise of a pet dog may have an important role to play in successful aging.”
Previous research has also shown that seniors who owned dogs had a lower risk of frailty. Frailty can significantly boost the risk for disability.
So, dogs are good for your health. If you don’t have one, no one is saying you need to get one! But definitely try to boost activity and maintain social connections to potentially keep you mobile and able.