Babies and children * Young people * Healthy living * Weight loss

New weapon in fight against childhood obesity

New weapon in fight against childhood obesity identified Take the dog for a walk

In a not entirely surprising result, a new study has found that children in families with a pet dog are more active that those without.

Scientists at London University investigated the daily movements of over 2,000 children aged between 9 and 10 during a 7 day period. They children lived in London, Birmingham and Leicester.

Around 10% of the children were from families that owned dogs. The study found that these children spent on average 11 minutes more per day in physical activity, ranging from light, moderate, moderate to vigorous and vigorous, as classified by the researchers.

The dog owners also spent around 11 minutes less each day sitting down compared to the dog deprived households. All told the dog owners took an extra 360 steps each day.

Study leader Dr Christopher Owen commented: "The more active lifestyles of children from dog-owning families is really interesting – is it that owning a dog makes you more active or that more active families choose to have a dog? It’s a bit of a chicken and egg question. Long-term studies are needed to answer it, but it may be a bit of both."

Effect of dog ownership on adult health

This effect has previously been seen in adults who were found to become more physically active after they get a dog, but this is the first time the effect of canine ownership has been investigated in children.

Adults with a dog take around 25% more steps each day - an even bigger difference than seen in this study. This suggests that children do not spend as much time with the dog as adults, a fact which any parent familiar with trying to get their child to take the dog for a walk on a cold morning will fully understand.

The study was carried out as part of the Child Heart and Health Study in England, a St George’s project examining the health of about 5,000 primary school children living in London and the Midlands. The study is being undertaken with the support of the Wellcome Trust and is published in the American Journal of Public Health.

This article was published on Thu 23 September 2010

Image © sonya etchison -

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