With all of the technology and distractions kids have at their disposal, motivating them to stay active can be a difficult task. However, if there’s a dog in the family, odds are, your children will be more physically fit. In fact, a study in The American Journal of Public Health noted that, on average, children with dogs spent 325 minutes a week engaged in physical activity – 11 more minutes than those who did not own a dog.
While there is no proven scientific link between dog ownership and childhood obesity, having a dog provides children with a built-in social outlet as well as a reason for activity. Taking the family pup for a run, or perhaps just throwing a Frisbee in the yard means that kids are off the couch and on their feet. The regular chores and care required for dogs alone are reasons for activity, from feeding and cleaning up to letting him out. Children who walk and play with their dogs reap even more benefits, engaging in more activity that increases their heart rate.
It’s important to remember safety first when it comes to children and dogs, so here are a few tips for safe play:
• Never leave young children unattended when playing with dogs, whether indoors or outside.
• Search your local area for dog parks and play areas that provide open spaces with dog-friendly trails.
• Encourage teenagers to run and/or bike with your furry family member, and ensure that your teen uses a proper leash and is aware of bike safety measures.
Having a dog in your family does not guarantee fitness or well-being, but it can improve the likelihood of increasing your child’s level of physical activity. And let’s not forget the love and companionship of man’s best friend… and exercise buddy!