Puppy lovers rejoice! A study published recently in the journal BMC Public health found that dog owners over the age of 65 get more exercise than non-dog owners.

Lead researcher Philippa Dall of Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland told Market Watch, “Dog owners were found to walk over 20 minutes more a day and this additional walking was at a moderate pace.”

She added, “For good health, [World Health Organization] recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. Over the course of a week, this additional 20 minutes walking each day may in itself be sufficient to meet these guidelines. Our findings represent a meaningful improvement in physical activity achieved through dog walking.”

Not only do dogs help you get out; they also get you moving. A mutt can up your walking speed to up to three miles per hour, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers moderate intensity.

Prior studies have shown that moderate-intensity walking is just as effective as running in lowering the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and other conditions. And the more people walk, the more the health benefits increase, according to the American Heart Association.

Robert Sallis, a family physician with Kaiser Permanente in California, who was not involved in the research but commented on the findings, said “The national physical activity guidelines call for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, and that’s what they got in this study,” said Sallis. A CDC analysis has found that only about 50 percent of Americans get that much exercise every week.

Lead Photo: “Lucy” courtesy Ryan Prentice.  Picture above courtesy Ruff Wear