The same holds true for your dog. Unfortunately, studies show that more than half are overweight. In fact, dogs that are active and maintain a healthy weight live up to two years longer than overweight ones.
Public health expert weighs in
Researcher Cindy Lentino, an exercise scientist at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, says, "Dog owners who don't walk their dog are missing a great opportunity to get physical activity and stay healthy. If you walk your dog just 30 minutes a day, you can meet national recommendations for physical activity."
In addition, you will find that walking and owning a dog is your best defense against stress.
Some dog walkers are quite proud of the active time they spend with their four-legged friends. One owner I spoke to said she had walked more than 1,500 miles since she adopted her Cairn Terriers five years ago. That's about 300 miles a year. Believe me, she is adding years to her life and life to her years and she's doing the same for her dogs.
Walk this way
I'm sure you are responsible dog walker, which is why you come back from a walk energized. For those of you who would like to begin a pet exercise regimen, here are a few training tips to get you started and keep you and your dog safe.
| Always walk your dog on a leash. A harness is a good choice with a retractable leash so you can give your pet a little slack or reel them in as needed, particularly in the beginning when your paces might not match up exactly.
| If you are taking your dog to a walking event, check with the organizers for restrictions.
| Anywhere you walk, abide by the rules.
| With this in mind, always clean up after your pet. Carry a pooper-scooper or a plastic bag.
| Both you and your dog need water to stay hydrated. Collapsible bowls work well for this.
| Dogs can't sweat, so find a shady area every now and then and let your pet cool down. I can't stress water enough.
If possible, obedience training is good if your dog is easily distracted or hard to handle. Also, remember to pay attention to your dog's conditioning level and it must progress just like yours will. If it is a hot and humid day, be aware of heat stress and shorten your walk or make it less intense. Note: some breeds, such as pugs/bulldogs, are not meant to exercise in hot conditions.
Don't have an exercise buddy?
Do like Deb. There are thousands of dogs wishing they had a home and literally dying to be rescued. Check shelters and rescue groups to find your best buddy and energy supply.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and YMCA Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311 or email cindys...@aol.com. Look for her award winning fitness advice book, "CindySays . . . "You an Find Health in Your Hectic World'" on her Web site www.cindysays.com or contact the YMCA at 340-3527.