You Can Minimize Your Risk of Disability as You Get Older by Owning and Walking a Dog

We all grow old. But we all want to slow down time.

Even though many of us look forward to retirement, we are aware that life often can no longer be immensely enjoyed by then because of the debilitating effects of aging. We are concerned about the gradual loss of physical strength, dimming vision, and various diseases that come with age.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, we start losing muscle mass and strength at the age of 40 and gain more fat. As we get older, our walking speed slows down, our mobility gets restricted, and our bodies become frail and susceptible to falls.

But what we fear the most is dementia and other forms of cognitive or physical disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presents these common signs of cognitive impairment:

  • Inability to recognize familiar faces and places
  • Loss of memory
  • Vision problems
  • Repeating stories over and over
  • Asking the same question frequently
  • Behavior or mood changes
  • Difficulty in planning, decision-making, and judgment

Aging is inevitable, but is there a way to grow old without suffering serious physical and cognitive disabilities?

A newly published study in Japan shows that having a pet dog reduces the risk of disabilities by half. Yu Taniguchi, senior researcher at the Center for Health and Environmental Risk Research in Tsukuba’s National Institute for Environmental Studies, and his team surveyed more than 10,000 people aged 65 to 84 years old to find out the effects of owning a dog or cat on their health.

Cat ownership does not cut the risk of developing disabilities in later life, the researchers found.

However, the study uncovered the fact that dog ownership, along with regular dog walks and daily care, has a positive impact on the owner. The dog’s companionship and physical activities required to keep it healthy make its owner a lot healthier too. And even if a person took care of a dog only in the past, there is still a 10% lower chance of him or her becoming disabled in later life.

So get out there and walk your dog! The future you will thank you!

Written by Doris De Luna

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