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Researchers team therapy dogs with senior exercise program

March 1, 2014 at 4:15 PM   |   Comments

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 1 (UPI) -- Florida State University researchers said teaming a retirement community and therapy dogs helped motivate seniors to sustain an exercise program.

Doctoral students Ashley Artese and Brandon Grubbs designed the exercise program under the direction of Lynn Panton, an associate professor of exercise science, and Karla Schmitt, an associate professor of nursing -- all from the Florida State University -- for residents of the Westminster Oaks Retirement Community.

They also worked with seven dogs and their handlers at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital's pet therapy program.

Volunteers for the study at Westminster Oaks were split into two groups of seven. One exercised with dogs trained by Tallahassee Memorial Hospital's pet therapy program. The other group exercised without them.

At the beginning of the six-week exercise program, the researchers took some basic measurements of the participants, which will be repeated at the end. They're looking at blood pressure, mood, physical ability and whether participants stuck with the program.

Three times a week, Artese and Grubbs take both groups through an exercise program.

When the group working with dogs lift their dumb bells, a dog picks up a plastic one, when the seniors walk around the room, the dogs walk in circles too.

"Between each exercise, we try to leave a little bit of time so people can pet the dogs and talk to the handlers," Artese, a first-year doctoral student in exercise science, said in a statement.

The study is not complete, but so far, all parties involved said they were enjoying the new concept in exercise.

"Exercise classes are not something I call fun, but with the dogs, it is fun," said Mary Stevenson, a Westminster Oaks resident.

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