• Posted on: 31 July 2019
  • By: lwiseblau

Walking the Dog Makes for a Healthier Human, Too

Study finds nursing student health improved when exercising dogs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity each week to maintain health. Yet in the United States, most do not meet these recommendations, putting them at risk for compromised health, morbidity or mortality.

One way to curb these trends may be as simple as taking your dog for a walk. walking dog

A professor with Auburn University’s School of Nursing and a doctor at its College of Veterinary Medicine collaborated to review research on the benefits of dog walking and other activities with dogs as a means to increase and sustain physical activity in their owners. Their report was recently presented at the 2019 National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities Summit and was published in the latest issue of Building Healthy Academics Journal.

Morgan Yordy, DNP, ACNS-BC, RN-BC, a professor at Auburn University School of Nursing along with Emily Graff, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVP from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine noted that inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle has been correlated with increased obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental illness. Even low to moderate physical activity is recommended to manage numerous diseases, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, renal disease and Alzheimer’s disease, among others. Taken together, the pair assert, these studies support the notion that increased physical activity is crucial in preventing and managing many diseases.

Yordy and Graff say there is specific health concerns for nurses and nursing students.

Nursing composes the largest group of healthcare workers, with 3.6 million nurses in the United States. Few nurses meet the suggested weekly activity guidelines, even when early in their careers. The 2016 National College Health Assessment II found only 20 percent of nursing students were meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines. More than 50 percent of nurses are estimated to be overweight or obese.

The pair notes there are many negative implications to a sedentary lifestyle that can be counteracted through low impact exercise, such as walking. Walking regularly has valuable health benefits and dog walking in particular, has cumulative benefits to nurses, nursing students and their canine companions.

Yordy says nursing faculty can play an important role in student health and the adoption of healthier lifestyles. “In order to promote health, one role for faculty could be to influence health promotion by developing evidence-based health initiatives such as dog walking programs that are sustainable and attainable within the school of nursing,” she said. “This includes incorporating student dog walking initiatives with AAT programs.”

Yordy says further research is needed to empirically evaluate effectiveness of dog walking on student and canine health, with a goal to improve and better develop programs for the future.