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A girl's best friend: How owning a dog helps moms-to-be stay physically active

Past research has down that exercise during pregnancy benefits mom as well as baby by, among other things, helping the fetal cardiac system grow stronger and healthier. Now findings published online in PLoS One suggest that owning a dog can be a powerful motivator to get pregnant women moving.

In the first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the United States and England examined the relationship between pet ownership and physical activity levels among pregnant women. The team drew on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to gather data on more than 11,000 pregnant women in the United Kingdom, and they found:

Dog ownership was associated with an increased (1.5 times) likelihood of undertaking at least 3 hours per week of activity ‘enough to work up a sweat’. Dog owners showed increased levels of brisk walking, but not other types of activity, thus the specificity of the finding makes it more likely that the association is causal. In addition, the trend of increasing likelihood of dog ownership with higher levels of activity and more hours of brisk walking per week also suggests a real effect of owning a dog.

The study showed that, overall, mothers-to-be who owned dogs were approximately 50 percent more likely to stay physically active during their pregnancy. Funding for the research was provided by a grant from WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, a subsidiary of Mars Petcare.

Previously: Extreme pregnancy: A look at exercise and expectant moms, Study: Exercise may not stave off gestational diabetes, How safe is rigorous exercise during pregnancy?, Could exercise before and during early pregnancy lower risk of pre-eclampsia? and Pregnant and on the move: The importance of exercise for moms-to-be
Photo by Tomas Hellberg

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