Are YOU overweight? Get a Great Dane: Owners of big dog breeds are 'more likely to walk their pet'
- Some owners are more motivated to exercise if they have to walk their pet
- One of the factors is size, as owners think bigger dogs require more effort
- They are also motivated to go walk if they believe the dog will benefit
- Experts say dog walking could help combat obesity in people and pets
Getting a dog could be the secret to losing weight - as long as it's a big one, scientists claim.
Larger breeds are more likely to get taken for walkies - because owners need more exercise, a study shows.
Some owners are more motivated to exercise if they have to walk pets - a phenomenon dubbed the 'Lassie effect.'
And one of the factors is size - as well as if they believe a trip out will benefit the animal's health.
Larger breeds of dogs, such as a Great Dane, are more likely to get taken for regular walks - because their owners need more physical exercise, researchers found
There are over eight million dogs in households across the UK - but not all are taken for regular walks.
Now new research has examined why some people feel more obliged to walk their dogs than others.
Dr Carri Westgarth, of Liverpool University, said: 'Dog ownership is associated with increased physical activity through walking.
'The benefits arising from owning and walking a dog are of particular public health interest due to their potential for a positive and long-term sustainable effect on the maintenance of physical activity behaviour and associated reduction in cardiovascular risk.'
Researchers looked at the demographic and behavioural factors that contribute towards owners reporting a strong sense of encouragement to walk their dogs.
They analysed data collected from 629 dog owners participating in a 10-year study of 1,813 residents in Perth, Western Australia.
Dog-walking could help to combat obesity in both people and pets, scientists from Liverpool University claim
The results of two surveys - 'Dog encouragement to walk' and 'Dog motivation to walk' - were analysed to identify both positive and negative factors.
Dr Westgarth said: 'There are both dog and owner factors that are associated with an owner's sense of encouragement and motivation to walk the dog which in turn has been found to be associated with increased dog walking behaviour.
'We now know owners feel more motivated to walk larger dogs - and if they believe that walking keeps the dog healthy.
EXERCISE TO PREVENT DEMENTIA
Regular exercise is the best lifestyle change a middle-aged person can make to prevent dementia, a landmark study revealed.
Activity of any intensity, from walking the dog to mountain climbing, helps prevents the cognitive decline typical in patients with Alzheimer's disease, experts claim.
Previous research has shown abnormalities in the brain tissue begins several decades before the onset of cognitive decline.
But, little is known about the lifestyle factors that might slow the onset of decline in middle age.
Regular exercise of any type, from walking the dog to mountain climbing, emerged as the number one protective factor against memory loss, researchers from the University of Melbourne found.
'A strong relationship or attachment to the dog and reporting feeling their dog enjoys walks is also motivating to owners.
'They are less motivated to take their dog out if they perceive it's too old or sick or if other family members usually walk the dog instead.'
These factors may be targeted in future interventions to increase and maintain physical activity levels of both people and pets, researchers believe.
They also said the study could help combat obesity in both people and pets.
Almost one-in-two households own dogs in the US, a quarter in the UK and 39 per cent in Australia.
Dr Westgarth said: 'Dog walking is a sustainable preventive medicine strategy with wide reach.
'Further a recent review of the association between dog ownership and physical activity identified approximately 40 per cent of people who live with a dog are not walking with them - and more could be walking with their dog more regularly.
'In view of the considerable investment in physical activity interventions investigation of the mechanisms through which dogs facilitate increased physical activity is required to identify feasible dog walking intervention strategies.'
The study was published in the BMC Public Health journal.
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