London: Owning a dog could help reduce the risk of childhood obesity.
A study of 78 inner-city primary schools in England found children in homes with dogs were more active than those without.
The researchers found that children in dog-owning families took part in more physical exercise and were less sedentary.
But researchers are still not sure whether this is a case of more active families being more likely to own a dog - or if owning a dog makes an otherwise sedentary family more active.
"It`s a bit of a chicken and egg question. Long-term studies are needed to answer it, but it may be a bit of both," the BBC quoted Christopher Owen, senior lecturer in epidemiology at St George`s, as saying.
The study measured levels of activity, such as the number of steps walked and time spent in light or moderate to vigorous physical activity, using a sample of more than 2,000 nine and 10-year-old children.
About one in 10 of these families, in London, Birmingham and Leicester, lived in a household with a dog.
It found a consistent picture for both boys and girls, on weekdays and weekends, that children in dog-owning families had a higher level of physical activity.
This could mean that children were accompanying their parents when walking the dog - or playing with the dog at home, rather than playing on the computer or watching television.
This increased activity could mean a significant difference for children`s long-term health, says Dr Owen, reducing the risk of obesity or diabetes.