Updated: Apr 9, 2022
In the western world childhood obesity is a real problem, not only for the health system but its destroying the health of our children and our future generations. Fortunately research has discovered that your dog no matter what breed you may have can help kids be more active also help them maintain a healthy weight by getting them out of those common childhood sedentary behaviours.
As I travel back in time I remember myself as a child been challenged to find my identity, struggling to fit in and keep up in a beautiful but competitive and cruel world. Belonging was quite a big thing for kids my age whether they admitted it or not. Still is! Sadly, if we add obesity on top of this huge list of childhood challenges it can lead to a bucket load of more problems for a child such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancers and even suicide etc.
‘I can’t close the zipper!’ ‘He called me fat again!’ ’I’m sick of taking insulin injections for this silly diabetes urgh!!...We’ve all heard this before!
I looked after a child at the hospital in the emergency department who suffered from obesity. In this instance her mother told me that her little girl tended to isolate herself as she did not feel socially accepted at school and was bullied because of her weight problem. She had attempted suicide as a result. I observed no smiles, constant tears and extremely distressed parents who decided to take her out of school and home educate her. Sad, very sad that an innocent child has to suffer this way.
A study done by Christian, H et.al. in 2013 they found that ‘dog ownership was associated with, on average, 29 more minutes of walking and 142 more minutes of physical activity per week. They discovered that children with a dog were 49% more likely to achieve the recommended level of weekly physical activity (420min). Furthermore, same authors did another study in 2014 where they compared a group of children that walked their dog and a group that did not. They found that 75% walked their dog in the neighbourhood and 47% did not. 60% of kids played in the street and 45% did not. They discovered that having a dog and taking them for a walk facilitated play and physical activity and more outdoor play in the fresh air which is very essential for maintaining a healthy human body. They found this to be an effective strategy for increasing children’s physical activity. Hence helping normalise obese children’s weight.
We now know that sedentary behaviour and inactivity can contribute to childhood obesity. Therefore so as to keep our kids healthy and next to us for the long run research is suggesting that owning a dog can help us combat this problem because they can support children’s outdoor physical activity through walking and playing.
B.N. Western Sydney University, MA Management (Nurs) Newcastle University.
Christian, H, Trapp, G, Villanueva, K, Zubrick, SR, Koekemoer, R & Giles-Corti, B. (2014). Dog walking is associated with more outdoor play and independent mobility for children. Preventive Medicine, 67, 259-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.08.002
Christian, H, Trapp, G, Lauritsen, C, Wright, K & Giles-Corti, B. (2013). Understanding the relationship between dog ownership and children's physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Pediatric Obesity, 8(5), 392-403. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2012.00113.x