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GPs should prescribe dog walking to boost physical activity, study says

GPs should prescribe dog ownership or dog walking to help older adults increase their physical activity, a study has suggested.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia tracked 3,123 older adults, 18% of whom had dogs, using an accelerometer to constantly measure their physical activity level over a week.

The study found that dog owners are sedentary for 30 fewer minutes on average.

The researchers therefore suggested that encouraging dog ownership or dog walking ‘might form a potent component of interventions in primary care to support physical activity in older patients’.

The paper added: ‘Our findings suggest that dog ownership and walking may have considerable potential to support the maintenance of physical activity in older adults and could form part of exercise on prescription schemes.’

GPs in other parts of the country have referred patients over 65 to dance sessions aimed at improving strength and balance and reducing social isolation

Prof Andy Jones, a researcher from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, 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.’

Readers' comments (15)

  • Funny that. I can't seem to find 'Dog' in the BNF.

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  • Sounds like it is something the Public Health are best placed to deliver.

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  • I prescribe lots of dag walking for myself after reducing hour or early retirement.

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  • A dog and a conscience is all you need.

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  • J hunt is making a dog's breakfast of general practice

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  • First we need a guideline on how to estimate likelihood of patient cleaning after their dog's done a cqc in the middle of a pavement. Not being able to do so would put public at risk.

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  • "While this study is undoubtedly incredibly informative and illuminating in highlighting correlation that exists between animal ownership and levels of physical activity, it doesn't consider long term environmental sustainability of such recommendations (of animal ownership). We believe that more research is needed in order to address this issue."
    RCGP lead GP of environment&sustainability responded

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  • Speechless really.......🐕🐩🐈

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  • No💩Sherlock,without a poop scoop.

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  • Where can we read this wonderful piece of work? Will it reach the dizzying heights of BJGP?

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