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Who is the better workout partner - Dogs or Humans?

It looks like Rover can lead you to the path of health and keep you there better than any human partner could. According to a study by the University of Missouri, Rex proved superior to man in maintaining a consistent long-term, and healthy, walking regime.

The 12-week study counted on the participation of 54 older adults from an assisted living home with 35 of the adults actively participating in walks and 19 serving as a control group. Of the 35 active participants, 12 were assigned dogs to walk while the others selected a human partner as their walking companion.

Although it will come as no surprise to dog owners, the researchers were surprised to find that the results of the study showed that those who walked the dogs showed a significant improvement in fitness while those that had chosen a human companion tended to find excuses to skip the workout. It was also noted that those who walked the dogs increased their walking speed by 28 percent (as compared to 4% among the human walkers) and as a result gained more confidence in their balance. Many of those in the group assigned to walking dogs even stopped using their canes and walkers.

One of the key factors in the difference in dedication and activity between the human and dog-walking groups was the mutual discouragement that human partners engaged in.

"In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking," said Rebecca A. Johnson, nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The dogs, on the other hand, were unflaggingly dedicated to their walks and never discouraged their companions from taking them on walks. Although the seniors had to take a bus five days a week to the local animal shelter to take their assigned dogs for walks, they "bounced off" the bus in anticipation of their walk with the dog.

The University of Missouri is furthering the results of the study with the "Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound" program that seeks to promote health and weight loss through the process of daily walking of dogs.

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