Paws for health: Let Fido lead the way

Clarise Lim, UVic kinesiology PhD student, with dog Connor

Is your dog a plodder and a sniffer or a higher-energy trail runner? The pace your dog sets on your walk could determine your health and exercise levels more than you realize.

A study published by Clarise Lim, graduate student in kinesiology working with Dr. Ryan Rhodes at the University of Victoria’s Behavioural Medicine Lab, examines the relationship between dog walking behaviours and dog characteristics, owners’ sense of responsibility and attachment to their dogs, and the quality of their motivations.

Her research shows that only half of Victoria dog owners walk their dogs at all. Of those who do, fewer than 60 per cent of those surveyed walk their dogs at intensities and amounts sufficient to reap the health benefits for themselves—150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week, according to the World Health Organization. In fact, as many as 85 per cent of Canadian adults don’t reach this minimum recommended amount of physical activity.

Given the close relationship between dogs and owners, Lim—owner of an adopted pit bull and a certified fitness instructor for 17 years—is now studying the effectiveness of using a dog as a catalyst to bring about positive health benefits for their owner.

To advance the findings of her published study, she is seeking volunteer dog owners who aren’t currently meeting recommended physical activity guidelines, to participate in a nine-week study starting in July. Her upcoming study will investigate the use of behavioural and self-regulation strategies such as making plans, using cues to form habits, and attending scheduled group walks, to achieve positive physical activity outcomes.

The Behavioural Medicine Lab produces and disseminates innovative and population-relevant physical activity and health research within an environment that fosters collaboration, community, pride, and life balance.

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Photo of Clarise Lim and her dog Connor are available for web and print via Dropbox.


Media contacts

Clarise Lim (Behavioural Medicine Lab) at 250-472-5488 or

Ryan Rhodes (Behavioural Medicine La) at 250-721-8384 or

Denise Helm (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-7656 or

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Keywords: exercise, health, animals, research

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