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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

April 3, 2012

Dog Ownership Encourages Beneficial Exercise in Pregnant Women

By David Alderton


The study of more than 11,000 pregnant women, carried out by the University of Liverpool, in the northwest of England, in partnership with Mars Petcare, indicated that those who owned dogs were approximately 50 percent more likely to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day through high levels of brisk walking than those without dogs. Scientists suggested that as it is a low-risk exercise, walking a dog could form part of a broader strategy to improve the health of pregnant women.

exercising with your dog
Walking a dog can bring health benefits during pregnancy.

Previous investigations have revealed that maternal obesity and large weight gain during pregnancy have adverse outcomes for mother and child. Studies show, for example, that obesity in pregnant women can result in difficult births and may also have implications for future obesity in the child. As a result, pregnant women, and those contemplating pregnancy, are advised to contact health professionals to manage their weight and exercise.

In the first study to investigate whether dog walking could help promote exercise in pregnant women, researchers anticipated the findings could be of value to health experts who offer advice on maintaining general fitness and healthy eating habits during pregnancy.

“Although the higher physical activity levels of adult dog owners has already been demonstrated in the U.S. and Australia, this is the first study of its kind to examine whether the effects also apply to pregnant women,” said Dr. Carri Westgarth of the University's Institute of Infection and Global Health. “We found that owning one or more dogs was associated with pregnant women taking part in brisk walking on a regular basis, helping them to achieve the recommended 150 minutes of activity a week. Findings suggest that ownership of a dog provides some motivation to go for a walk, even during pregnancy.

“We now need to investigate why some people do not take up the health-enhancing opportunity to walk their dogs regularly, and what barriers and motivators there are to walking,” Dr. Westgarth continued. “We also need to find out how factors such as the type of dog many affect the intensity of physical activity; for example, whether owners with large dogs walk more briskly, compared to owners with small dogs. This will help us identify the advice health professionals could recommend to pregnant women for dog-walking activity.”

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