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Collaborative Success Stories: Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound


Dog-walking is a powerful motivator for physical activity and weight loss. 

The University of Missouri is home to the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, which examines how the human-animal bond impacts health in people and animals.  There, Dr. Rebecca Johnson and her colleagues have conducted numerous studies showing that companion animals provide unique social support and motivation for exercise. In particular, dog-walking provides a compelling reason to get up and go.

Johnson’s work has been highly successful with underserved populations, including older adults. Older adults’ normal walking speed increases significantly after dog-walking. Not only that, older adults who walk their dogs show increased physical activity outside of the dog-walking. And owning a dog isn’t essential—fostering shelter dogs who are waiting to find permanent homes also results in increased activity.

Johnson notes that dogs provide inherent motivation for regular exercise, which may otherwise be lacking. “When you’re walking a dog, you get added benefit because the dog provides us with unconditional acceptance and enthusiasm,” she says. “If treadmills provided unconditional love and support, there wouldn’t be so many out there with clothes hanging on them!”

Dr. Rebecca Johnson is the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing and a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine