Dog owners are four times more likely to meet exercise targets

Dog owners are four times more likely to meet the recommended activity targets because ‘most get 2.5 hours of exercise a week just walking their pets’

  • Experts found dog owners exercise more even when they’re not with their pet
  • Nearly nine out of 10 of them get the recommended 150 minutes per week
  • Whereas this dropped to just six out of 10 among people without pooches
  • One said communities’ exercise levels would be ‘much lower’ without pet dogs

The UK would be less active without man’s best friend, research suggests.

Dog owners have been to found to be four times more likely to meet weekly exercise targets than people without one.

Two thirds of dog owners manage to get the recommended two-and-a-half hours of exercise each week just by walking their dog, a study found.

Almost nine in 10 people with pooches meet the target overall – but this drops to just 60 per cent among people without the pets.

Having a dog also makes people more likely to exercise in addition to walkies, with higher rates of joggers and runners among owners.

Scientists at the University of Liverpool found people who have dogs are more likely to exercise even if they’re not with their pet at the time

Researchers from the University of Liverpool studied nearly 700 people including dog owners, people without dogs, and children.

They found 87.3 per cent of people with dogs exercised for 150 minutes per week – the NHS recommendation.

This compared to 62.7 per cent of those without a canine pet.

Dog owners walked more frequently and for longer periods, and this activity was in addition to – not instead of – other exercise, the study found.

‘Our findings provide support for the role of pet dogs in promoting and maintaining positive health behaviours such as walking,’ the researchers said.

‘Without dogs, it is likely that population physical activity levels would be much lower.’ 


The NHS recommends all adults aged between 19 and 64 should take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week.

Examples of such activity includes brisk walking, cycling, rollerblading, hiking or volleyball. 

Alongside the 150 minutes, each adult should perform strength exercises on at least two days each week, targeting the major muscles.

However, the NHS also says that 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity is fine for those who cannot commit to 150 minutes of moderate activity.

Examples of aerobic activity include running, tennis, football, rugby or rope skipping. 

A mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity is also recommended.

UK guidelines say adults should do 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week.

The researchers analysed activity levels in a community in west Cheshire, with the sample comprising 191 dog owners, 455 people without a dog and 46 children.

Dog owners walked with their pets for a median average of seven times and 220 minutes per week, the study found. 

They were more likely to report jogging or running without their pet than non-dog owners, but less likely to take part in yoga or pilates.

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of dog owners walked their pet for at least 150 minutes per week – higher than the 27 per cent reported in a US study.

The researchers suggest this due to the warmer US climate, which means many pets are kept outside and self-exercise.

‘Our pet dogs play an important role in keeping us healthy and this should be recognised and facilitated,’ the researchers said.

‘However, this should not be interpreted to as a recommendation for people to go out and get a dog purely for their own benefit. 

‘Dog welfare needs must be carefully considered.’

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