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Pet ownership among older adults was investigated to determine whether dog owners were more likely to engage in physical activity than non-dog-pet or non–pet owners. The relationship between pet ownership and physical activity was examined using data from the Health ABC study. After age, race, education level, number of assets, family income, and site were adjusted for dog owners were more likely than non–pet owners to have engaged in non-exercise-related walking in the preceding week but did not differ from non–pet owners in walking for exercise or any physical activity. In contrast, non-dog-pet owners did not differ from non–pet owners in non-exercise-related walking in the preceding week and were less likely than non–pet owners to have engaged in walking for exercise or any physical activity in the preceding week. The activity-related benefits of pet ownership in older adults were limited to dog owners, who engaged in greater overall physical activity—non-exercise-related walking, in particular. Whether pet-related physical activity is sufficient to provide health benefits requires longitudinal investigation.
Thorpe and Simonsick are with the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD 21224. Kreisle and Glickman are with the Dept. of Veterinary Pathobiology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. Newman is with the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Kritchevsky is with the Sticht Center on Aging, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.