A dog-loving colleague pointed me to Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog in today’s New York Times. The gist of the story:
Several studies now show that dogs can be powerful motivators to get people moving. Not only are dog owners more likely to take regular walks, but new research shows that dog walkers are more active over all than people who don’t have dogs.
It was interesting to see the reader comments. Many concerned people wrote that dog ownership is a serious responsibility, and that it’s not a good idea to encourage people to get dogs if their primary motivation is to get more exercise. The story and comments reminded me of a friend who suffers from mental illness and previously spent much of his time at home and ate a good deal of junk food. About a year ago he got a part-time caregiver who cooks him healthy food. But she also brings her dog to work with her, and my friend spends a lot of time walking the dog. When I speak with him he invariably mentions how much better he feels and looks as a result of healthier eating and walking the dog. The article didn’t touch on it, but no doubt there are mental health benefits from dog walking, too. And since it’s the caregiver’s dog, that should allay concerns of the commenters about the dog’s welfare. I’m not a dog person, but this article opened my eyes.