Monday, April 6, 2009

Walk 4 Wellness 2009!

Harump. I'm bored.

Dee da dee...

Ohh, hello there. My name is Kasey. Wanna know what the heck a Walk 4 Wellness is? Well keep reading, duhhh.

Animal Assisted Therapy, exercise, and Mental Health Go Hand-in-Hand!

Here are some findings of related research:

Quality experiences in sports can have beneficial emotional effects in terms of reduced negative affect (anxiety, sadness, anger, depression, guilt, etc) and increased self-esteem (Biddle, 1993).

Evidence points to physical activity, or associated factors, as an effective treatment. The use of exercise and sport in the prevention and treatment of state anxiety, moderate depression, and/or low self-esteem may often be recommended as a practical approach. In addition to reducing the essential symptoms, exercise is less costly than other therapeutic methods. Because of its intrinsic activeness, it may also bring additional physical, psychological, and social benefits (Gleser & Mendelberg, 1990).

Exercise treatments for depressive symptoms improve stress symptoms and self-rated quality of life (Atlantis, Chow, Kirby, et al., 2004).

It is argued that pets can provide access to social support: (a) directly through the close relationship between pet and owner and (b) indirectly through providing a means of facilitating interactions with other people, leading to a sense of belonging and social integration, and as a platform for forming deeper, more permanent relationships (McNicholas & Collis, 2006).

After six months of participation in Animal-assisted therapy, there were improvements in mental functions of participants in a long term nursing home setting (Kawamura, Niiyama, & Niiyama, 2007).

In an animal-assisted therapy study, children completed the tasks faster when a dog was present than when the dog was absent. This indicates that the presence of a therapy dog served as an effective motivator for the children, who performed faster, but without compromising accuracy (in all tasks but one). The interaction between dog presence and type of task was significant. This indicates that the presence of the dog increased performance accuracy in some types of tasks, while decreasing it in others. Based on these results and the strong connection between motor skills and language development, the authors recommend a role for therapy dogs in speech and language development programs for preschool children (Gee, Harris, & Johnson, 2007).

If you don’t already know, Mental Health America of Licking County strives to help prevent and improve mental illness through education- from preschoolers to adults. Among other topics, we can tell people to exercise and spend time with animals (if they like animals, that is) until we’re blue in the face, so we figured, why not put our advice into action!

That is why we are teaming with Angel Paws animal-assisted therapy group to do the walk. The therapy dogs and their owners from Angel Paws don’t just visit nursing homes, but also help kids learn to read! As you saw from the research mentioned above, the therapy can help kids learn in some areas. Angel Paws dogs simply allow the children to read to them, which improves the children’s comfort level, confidence, and enjoyment of reading. Visit to see pictures of the therapy in action!

We recently got news from Patti Shanaberg at Angel Paws that an artist with the Highlights Magazine will be helping us design the logo for the event! Woohoo!

We hope you can join us on August 22nd from 9am-1pm starting at the Park & Ride on the corner of Cherry Valley Road and Reddington Rd. in Newark for this great family event.

If you have questions, email


Atlantis, E., Chow, C., Kirby, A., and Singh, M. (2004). An effective exercise-based intervention for improving mental health and quality of life measures: A randomized controlled trial. Preventive medicine: An international journal devoted to practice and theory, 39, 424-434.

Biddle, S.J. (1993). Children, exercise and mental health. International journal of sport psychology, 24, 200-216.

Gee, N.R., Harris, S.L., and Johnson, K.L. (2007). The role of therapy dogs in speed and accuracy to complete motor skills tasks for preschool children. Anthrozoos, 20, 375-386.

Gleser. J. and Mendelberg, H. (1990). Exercise and sport in mental health: A review of the literature. Isreal Journal of psychiatry and related sciences, 27, 99-112.

Kawamura, N., Niiyama, M., and Niiyama, H. (2007). Long-term evaluation of animal- assisted therapy for institutionalized elderly people: A preliminary result. Psychogeriatrics, 71, 8-13.

McNichols, J. and Collis, G. (2006). Animals as social supports: Insights for understanding animal- assisted therapy. Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice (2nd Ed), 49-71.