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Children who acquire a dog are more likely to exercise, study finds

Girls who got a dog as they entered full-time schooling substantially increased their activity levels. Gains were less substantial among boys.
Children who acquire a dog are more likely to exercise, study finds
Posted at 9:58 AM, Feb 12, 2024

Do you want your children to get more physical activity? Perhaps you should get them a dog. 

New research from the University of Western Australia indicates that children who have dogs significantly increase their amount of lightly intense activities. The study was recently published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 

The study examined children's behavior for several years as they transitioned from preschool to full-time school. 

They found that girls who acquired a dog increased their lightly intense activities by 52 minutes per day, while girls who lost their dog decreased their light physical activity by over an hour a day. 

Overall, girls who acquired a dog averaged nearly 100 minutes more per day in physical activity than those who had lost a dog.

The data was less stark for boys. In general, boys who entered full-time school were less likely to exercise than in preschool, but acquiring a dog seems to help children maintain their light physical activity levels. 

SEE MORE: These dog breeds have a higher chance of getting cancer, study shows

Boys who never owned a dog lost about 27.4 minutes per day of physical activity, but those who acquired a dog gained about four minutes per day. Boys who acquired a dog averaged about a half hour more light physical activity per day than those who never owned a dog.

Boys who lost a dog during the study largely kept the same physical activity as they did when they entered the study.

"Dog acquisition had a significant positive effect and dog loss had a significant negative effect on the change in young children’s movement behaviors over the transition from preschool to full-time school," the study says. "However, these effects were different for boys and girls and were not observed across all movement behaviors. Results from this study indicate the benefits of dog ownership begin early in childhood."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children ages 3-5 should be physically active throughout the day. For children 6 and up, they should get at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to intense physical activity a day.

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