I recently adopted my dog, Bella, from Pet Helpers and it was a match made in heaven. Besides loving her and enjoying taking care of her, I have found an unexpected reward from having Bella. I stay active at work but finding time to exercise has always been a problem for me, until now. After six weeks I am now walking her each evening for 50 minutes. When's the last time I came home from work and took a 50-minute walk? Uh, NEVER!! Bella returns from the walk exhausted and tired, and I return energized. I'm curious, though, to find out what the fitness world says about the benefits of dog walking? -- Deb
My gut reaction says, "Who cares what anyone says about the benefits of dog walking. You just pinpointed the most important one: Energy!"
But OK, I'll share some insight on the topic of dog walking and health. It's actually a subject that is garnering lots of attention from canine lovers, obesity researchers and fitness experts, and being a proud pug parent makes this near and dear to my heart. In an effort to get people moving, the American Council on Exercise believes a picture's worth a thousand words and uses an image of a large lab with the words "Think of him as a treadmill with hair." I wholeheartedly agree.
A couch potato's best friend
Research shows that very little is as valuable as a great workout partner to keep you motivated and active. For example, when a friend calls you up and says let's walk, you're more apt to go. Likewise, when you get your dog into a daily walking habit, he can quickly become your most loyal workout partner. In fact, once in the habit, dogs will remind you that it's time to get moving outside -- some will even sit by the door with their leash in their mouth.
Those who walk their dog are more physically fit
Health benefits for dog walkers happen on both ends of the leash. Just owning a dog doesn't reap fitness rewards. Studies conducted with people who didn't walk their pets were compared to those who regularly walked their dogs, and these were the findings.
Those who didn't walk their dogs:
| Were 58 percent more likely to be overweight.
| Were less likely to meet moderate intensity activity standards, according to the American College of Sports Medicine's guidelines for physical activity.
| Spent at least 30 more minutes sitting each day.
| Doubled their chance for high blood pressure.
Good for you, good for your dog
Cedric X. Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, says, "Walking is arguably the most popular physical activity in the United States, and for good reason. It's easy to do, inexpensive, joint friendly, and can be well tolerated by virtually everyone. A consistent walking habit conditions your heart, strengthens your bones and muscles, elevates your mood, improves yours mental outlook, and reduces your risk for a variety of chronic diseases . . . ."