Dog-friendly neighborhoods could tackle physical inactivity and problems such as obesity in both people and their pets.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom found that access to dog-friendly walking environments and better education about dogs' physical needs, could motivate people to get out more and exercise with their pets.
It is estimated that 40 percent of dog owners don't take their dogs for a walk. In the UK, almost a quarter of households own a dog, but less than half of adults meet the recommended level of 150 minutes a week of physical activity.
"It is easy to assume that people who own dogs are more likely to exercise, but the reality can be very different," Carri Westgarth, lead author of the study, said in a statement. "If all people who owned a dog walked with it every day, physical activity levels would be much improved, benefiting the health of both the owners and their canine companions."
For the study, researchers from the University's Institute of Infection and Global Health reviewed 31 research studies from the UK, USA, Australia and Japan. Among the most common findings was that dog owners have a varied understanding of how much exercise their dog needs. This affected how much they took their dog for a walk and this is something that could be addressed with education programs.
They also found that people without access to high quality local areas that support dog walking, for example parks where dogs are allowed off-leash and poo-disposal facilities are provided, were less likely to walk with their dog and missed out on the associated health benefits.