New research suggests that not only does walking the dog help owners to be more physically active, but it also leads to increased feelings of safety within the neighbourhood.
Led by Dr Hayley Christian from The University of Western Australia (UWA), the research is the first international study of its kind to consistently examine a possible link between dog walking, physical activity and people’s feelings of safety in their community.
More than 1000 dog owners from Perth, Australia, and the US cities of San Diego, Nashville and Portland, were surveyed for the study, with the researchers finding that dog owners in all four cities walked their dog 5 to 6 times a week for more than 90 minutes a week.
This meant that dog walkers achieved at least 30 minutes of physical activity on more days per week than non-dog walkers, helping them to meet the 150 minutes of physical activity per week currently recommended for good health.
In addition, the team found that almost 60% of dog walkers in both Australia and the US reported feeling safer when walking with their dog. These feelings of safety and security were even more pronounced for women than men, and for dog walkers in the US study sites when compared to those studied in Perth, possibly due to the fact that more participants in Perth walked their dogs in a local park rather than in their local neighbourhood.
“Dog walkers were also more than three times more likely to walk in their neighbourhood, suggesting that dog walking helps you get to know your local area and neighbours,” said Dr Christian, “This natural surveillance provides opportunities for people to interact, and monitor their neighbourhood and notice unusual behaviour, which can help deter local crime and make people feel safer.” She added that as they are often out in their local neighborhood, dog walkers can became the “eyes and ears on the street”.
Dr Christian believes that the results of study not only point out both the social and physical health benefits of dog walking but also the need to implement more health programs and policies that support dog walkers. The results of the study can be found online published in the journal BMC Public Health.