You’ve probably heard time and time again that there are numerous advantages that come from exercising, especially as we grow older. Having a dog can be a great motivator to get up off the couch and go for a walk.
But even exercise as moderate as walking your dog can present dangers like fractured bones and unwelcome visits to the emergency room, particularly for seniors and aging adults.
A new study claims that injuries among seniors who walk their dogs are on the rise. However, there are some things older dog owners can do to reduce injury risks and still enjoy spending time with their dogs.
What The Experts Say Regarding Seniors And Dog Walking
According to a recent study published by JAMA Surgery, fractures that were tied to dog walking occurred primarily among adults aged 65-and-older. This number more than doubled from 1,700 to 4,400 between 2004 and 2017.
The most common injuries suffered among senior adults in this study were fractures in the hips and upper extremities such as the wrist, arms, and fingers. Almost 80 percent of these injuries occurred among senior women. That may be because their bones tend to be less dense than those of senior men.
Kevin Pirruccio, a second-year medical student at the University of Pennysylvania, who spearheaded this study along with his team—consisting of senior author and medical doctor, Jaimo Ahn, PhD, and Yeo Myoung Yoon, a research assistant– reviewed all fractures associated with “pet products” among elder adults 65-and-older through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The system tracked 100 emergency rooms across the nation, which corresponded to 32,624 cases in America, overall.
These are alarming statistics, but the question remains, why the rise in these types of injuries?
The team theorized an increase in pet ownership and an emphasis on greater physical activity for seniors could be the cause of the upward trend.
Pirruccio stated, “Dog walking, which has repeatedly demonstrated social, emotional and physical health benefits, is a popular and frequently recommended activity for many older Americans seeking new ways to stay active.”
He added, “This study highlights that while there are undoubtedly pros to dog walking, patients’ risks for falls must be factored into lifestyle recommendations in an effort to minimize such injuries.”
Ways To Avert Injury While Walking Your Dog
There are more than a few ways to prevent a visit to your local emergency room.
One of the first and simplest things you can do is check the weather. Depending on your local climate, you should make sure there’s no rainstorm or snowfall coming your way. Avoiding icy and muddy terrain will definitely help prevent any haphazard slips during your walk.
Make sure to wear the appropriate shoes depending on your surroundings and the weather. For a short walk we might just want to slide into flip flops or slippers. However, be aware that these types of footwear don’t get great traction. A sudden jerk in any direction by your dog might cause you to slip and fall.
Another thing to consider is the size of your dog. If you’re a senior with health issues or decreased strength, a smaller dog might be more ideal. One who weighs over 90 pounds might be more difficult to manage.
Lastly you should think about the leash and collar that your dog uses. From retractable leashes to shoulder collars, there are many products out there that sound convincing enough to prevent injuries.
In my opinion, it won’t matter what type of leash you use if your dog is not trained. Investing in obedience school or going to your local trainer for assistance will go a long way to preventing any mishaps during your walks with your dog.
Walking Your Dog Is Still Great Exercise
The studies reported by Kevin Pirrucci and his team shouldn’t discourage seniors from adopting or walking dogs. In fact, the team insists this report should help senior dog owners to be more mindful of risks and prevent injuries while walking dogs.
No matter what studies report or what statistics say, walking your dog can be one of the best exercises you can do. Not only does it promote increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness for you and your dog, but it’s relaxing. And you get to do it with someone you love!
What are your thoughts on the studies regarding dog walking and bone fractures among seniors and aging adults? Let us know in the comments below!