Loving your dog could help you live longer.

Researchers have found that adults of 60 years or more who form strong bonds with their dogs tend to exercise more often and for longer.

Dog walking is associated with lower body mass index, fewer visits to the doctor, exercising more frequently and an increase in social benefits for the elderly, researchers at the University of Missouri found.

The study used US data about human-animal interactions, physical activity, frequency of doctor visits and health outcomes of the participants.

Advertisement

Researchers found that people with higher degrees of pet bonding were more likely to take their dogs for a healthy walk, an activity which also meant they tended to be more social.

Rebecca Johnson, a professor at the university's College of Veterinary Medicine who took part in the research, said: "These results can provide the basis for medical professionals to recommend pet ownership for older adults and can be translated into reduced health care expenditures for the aging population."

Retirement communities could adopt pet-friendly policies, such as establishing dog walking trails and dog exercise areas, in order to improve their residents' health, she said.