London: Apart from being faithful and your best friend, dogs can be a reason for high fitness levels of owners also.

A new study by a team from the Michigan State University found that dog owners are more likely to reach recommended fitness levels than people without a pet.

The findings showed that promoting dog ownership and dog walking could help many people become healthier, said Mathew Reeves who co-authored the study.

"Obviously you would expect dog walkers to walk more, but we found people who walked their dog also had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activities," Dr Reeves was quoted as saying a newspaper.

Researchers used data from the Michigan Department of Community Health and found that not only did owning and walking a dog affect the amount of walking a person does but also that dog walkers were more active overall.

The study analysed the amount of leisure-time physical activity a person gets, including playing sports, exercise conditioning and recreation such as walking, dancing and gardening.

It is recommended that people get at least 150 minutes of such activity a week.

Dr Reeves said, "There is no magic bullet in getting people to reach those benchmarks. But owning and walking a dog has a measurable impact."

He also pointed out the social aspects of owning a dog as well as the human-animal bonding has been shown to have a positive impact on quality of life.

"The findings suggest public health campaigns that promote the responsible ownership of a dog along with the promotion of dog walking may represent a logical opportunity to increase physical activity," he added.

The new findings were published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health

(Agencies)