Want a Closer Community? Bring in the Dogs

Dog walking has physical and social benefits

My book Fit As Fido devotes an entire chapter to the importance of socializing like your dog−meaning meeting and greeting your neighbors needs to be a top health priority. In today’s world of backyard decks instead of front porches, electric garage door openers, and social media replacing sidewalk chats, it’s easy to feel disconnected from your neighborhood. Need a cup of sugar? You’ll probably order some online to be delivered to your front door instead of visiting a neighbor for sugar, a cup of coffee, and a bit of neighborhood news. A 2010 US report found that only 42 percent of people talk with their neighbors several times a week and only 15 percent share favors with their neighbors.

Feeling connected with one’s community is actually an important part of your health. Social connectedness has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety and improved well-being. Strong social connections are also associated with reduced risk for depression and decreased risk of dying.

One of the easiest ways to boost your social connectedness quotient is to grab a leash, whistle for Fido, and start taking regular dog walks. A new study investigated the impact of dog walking on community connectedness for adults 50 years old or older. The results have been published in journal Health & Place. Here’s what they found:

  • People walking their dogs frequently (at least 4 times per week) were twice as likely to feel connected to their community.
  • Those walking their dogs frequently were over 10 times more likely to get in the World Health Organization recommended 150 minutes of exercise weekly.
  • Dog owners who infrequently walked their dogs had no better sense of community or fitness level than people without dogs.

This study supports that making dog walking a regular part of your routine has both physical and social benefits. It’s important to remember that waving to your neighbor, sharing a bit of news, and talking about what’s happening with each other are important for helping you feel a part of your neighborhood and they help boost your health.

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