A Pregnant Woman's Best Friend

Dog owning expectant mothers are more likely to get recommended level of daily exercise

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(RxWiki News) Gaining too much extra weight while pregnant can cause problems for mother and baby alike. One solution might be to bring in a third party - a dog.

A large new study reveals that pregnant women who own dogs are a little over 50 percent more likely to get in the 30 minutes of low-impact exercise each day that doctors recommend for moms-to-be.

"Pregnant women need 30 minutes of exercise daily."

Dr. Carri Westgarth, an epidemiologist at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool in the U.K., led the study, which was funded in part by Mars Petcare.

The researchers looked at data from the the University of Bristol's Children of the 90s study, a long-term health research project with over 14,500 women who enrolled in 1991 and 1992 so researchers could chart the health and development of the children and their parents.

From this study, Westgarth's team gathered pet-ownership and self-reported exercise data from 11,466 mothers.

They found that the 25 percent of the women who owned at least one dog were more likely to participate in physical activity at least once a week when they were 18 weeks pregnant.

Overall, expectant moms who owned dogs were 53 percent more likely to get three hours of activity each week. They were also more likely to walk briskly for that exercise than those without dogs.

"Although the higher physical activity levels of adult dog owners has already been demonstrated in the US and Australia, this is the first study of its kind to examine whether the effects also apply to pregnant women," Westgarth said.

"Findings suggest that ownership of a dog provides some motivation to go for a walk, even during pregnancy," she said.

Westgarth's team did not, however, find any association between whether a woman owned a dog and her weight. They also found that some pregnant women did not go out walking even if they did own a dog.

"This means that we need to look at how promotion of dog walking could be integrated into a wider strategy, which includes advice on healthy eating, to encourage exercise during pregnancy and reduce weight gain," Westgarth said.

She suggested more research to find out if a dog's breed influenced a woman's decision to walk or the walk's intensity.

The researchers did not find any association with dog ownership and any other forms of physical activity, such as weight training, jogging, cycling, swimming, tennis, yoga, etc.

The study appears in the February issue of PLoS One. It was funded by a grant from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition (a subsidiary of Mars Petcare) as well as support from a range of U.K. and U.S.

Five of the authors receive support from grants from Mars Petcare, and Westgarth's position is funded partly from this grant.

Last Updated:
February 16, 2012