Walking your dog can be a great way to build a little exercise into your life at any age but being careful is not too much to ask: The number of Americans over age 65 who have had fractures associated with walking a dog on a leash has more than doubled since 2004, according to a study published in March of this year.
Broken arms, legs and hips are the sort of fractures researchers from the University of Pennsylvania turned up in their examination of more than a decade of federal injury data at 100 U.S. emergency departments nationwide.
In 2004, among patients 65 and older, there were an estimated 1,671 cases of broken bones linked to walking a leashed dog, compared to 4,396 in 2017. Most fractures were among women. The study appears in the March 2019 issue of JAMA Surgery.
Upper arm fractures were most common, which makes perfect sense, because when you fall you try to brace yourself with your arms. But nearly 1 in 5 people suffered hip fractures, which can be particularly dangerous for older individuals, who have a tougher time recovering.
Doctors found that if you had no assisted walking device before the fracture, after the fracture you have a more than 50 percent increased risk that you will need a cane. If you were already using a cane, then you have a greater than 50 percent increased risk of needing a walker.
The study doesn't get into why such events have increased, though other doctors that did not participate in the study believe that an increased number of older adult are more active and out doing things, and that has likely led to more accidents and fractures.
Doctors don’t want to discourage you from walking your dog. But recognize the limits of your strength and work on training the Fido not to pull on the leash.
Although falls are on the rise, they are still rare. In the context of a population of close to 50 million people over 65 in the U.S., 4,000 injuries signify a "relatively small incidence."
There is always risk in whatever you do but that shouldn’t stop you from getting up and moving including walking your dog. Any risk associated with dog-walking is far outweighed by the risk of doing nothing,
Sitting on that couch hours on end carries extensive health and mental health risks.
It’s a beautiful summer day today, so get out and walk that pup!