The University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) finds dogs do a better job of getting older adults out for exercise. ReCHAI sponsors several projects that attempt to further the understanding and value of the relationship between humans and animals. In 2008, ReCHAI sponsored the “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound and Stay Fit for Seniors.” In the preliminary program, a group of older adults were matched with shelter dogs, while another group of older adults were partnered with a human walk buddy. For 12 weeks, participants were encouraged to walk on an outdoor trail for one hour, five times a week. At the end of the program, researchers measured how much the older adults’ activity levels improved. “The older people who walked their dogs improved their walking capabilities by 28 percent,” Johnson said. “They had more confidence walking on the trail, and they increased their speed. The older people who walked with humans only had a 4 percent increase in their walking capabilities. The human walking buddies tended to discourage each other and used excuses such as the weather being too hot.” This bit about humans discouraging each other contrasts with my own experience with dog walking. They are not interested in excuses. They want to go galloping up the road. They think exercise is just plain great. A good dog is a great professional trainer.If you have a bit of time, your local shelter could use your help. With the economic downturn, surrenders and abandoned animals are up and support is down. They can always use a dog walker.
I thought this was interesting.