Researchers surveyed 428 Calgarians identified through random sampling, and 115 of these participants indicated owning dogs. Two surveys were completed by all of 428 participants, one in the winter and one in the summer season. In both seasons, dog-owners reported more walking for recreation in their neighbourhoods than did non-owners. These results appear in the May 4th edition of BMC Public Health.
“We are reporting, for the first time, quantitative evidence showing that dog-owners tend to go against the trend of marked declines in physical activity during winter. The winter is quite harsh in Calgary yet dog-walkers tend to remain active in their neighbourhoods despite snow, ice, cold, and reduced daylight,” says Melanie Rock faculty member in the Faculties of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the U of C, and a member of the Calgary Institute for Population and Public Health (CIPPH).
“Dog- walking in the neighbourhood can also help non-owners. We know that seeing others about and active encourages people to get out and walk. Further, visibility of neighbours makes people feel safer in their communities.”
Prabh Lail, a medical student as well as a master’s student in population and public health at the U of C, is the lead author on the paper. “Physical activity is something many people struggle with, including myself,” she says. “Many people who own dogs don’t recognize dog-walking as a source of exercise, yet it’s a great strategy for incorporating physical activity into daily routines. Regular activity protects physical as well as mental health.”
Patricia Cameron is executive director of the Calgary Humane Society and as a dog-owner herself, she knows she is keeping active thanks to her pets. “Winters last a long time and we need to be active. My two dogs help me get out in the cold weather. I’m not stuck inside for 3 weeks during a cold snap, the way I was before I adopted my dogs. Their enthusiasm for walks gets me going every day, rain or shine, cold or warm.”
While previous studies have associated pets with multiple health benefits, the UofC researchers caution that owning a dog is not feasible or affordable for everyone. Researchers recommend Calgarians offer to walk a dog belonging to a friend or neighbour, or join the ranks of volunteers who walk dogs awaiting adoption at the Calgary Humane Society.
This study took place in the Population Health Intervention Research Centre and was supported by funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions (AI-HS).
About the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary
UCalgary’s Faculty of Medicine is a national leader in health research with an international reputation for excellence and innovation in health care research, education and delivery. We train the next generation of health practitioners and move new treatments and diagnostic techniques from the laboratory bench to the hospital bedside, improving patient care. For more information visit http://medicine.ucalgary.ca. or follow us on twitter.com @UofCMedicine
About the Calgary Institute for Population and Public Health (CIPPH)
The Calgary Institute for Population and Public Health (CIPPH) is a partnership between the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services. CIPPH uses research and knowledge advancement to promote, protect, improve, and sustain the health of people and the ecosystem in Calgary, Alberta, and Canada and around the world. http://www.ucalgary.ca/cipph/
About the Calgary Humane Society
The Calgary Humane Society is a non profit organization that has been in operation since 1922. CHS provides a vital service to Calgary and surrounding area through sheltering more than 8,000 stray, abandoned and abused animals each year. For more information about the Calgary Humane Society please visit www.calgaryhumane.ca