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Get healthy, get a dog

Not rain, not ice, not snow, not sleet can keep your doggie off his feet.

Not rain, not ice, not snow, not sleet can keep your doggie off his feet.

People who own dogs benefit health-wise from their pet’s need to go for walks all year long.

A recent study at the University of Calgary found that having a dog keeps owners active and walking, even in horrendous weather.

This is significant because a large percentage of Canadians — 64 per cent — are inactive during the winter.

Who can blame them? In Calgary, in the dead of winter, sunset occurs less than eight hours after sunrise and the mean temperature ranges from

-8.5 to 1.5 degrees C, say the authors.

There’s nothing like a pair of big brown, begging eyes and some adorable furry eyebrows to get you to don your mitts, hat, boots and parka, and get outside.

“By acting as cues for physical activity, dogs may help their owners remain active across seasons,” says Parabhdeep Lail, lead author of the study and a medical student at the University of Calgary.

He and colleagues studied the walking habits of 428 Calgarians in both summer and winter. In the group, there were 115 dog owners.

The dog owners were at least three times more likely than non-owners to be consistent about walking in their neighbourhoods for recreation, the study found.

“This can have a positive effect on others in the community,” reported Lail.

Seeing neighbours outdoors walking their dogs encourages non-owners to get out and walk and makes people feel safer in their communities.

Lail and his colleagues suggest that dog-friendly neighbourhoods — including housing that allows dogs and parks that support dogs — may assist in enhancing population health by promoting physical activity.