Four legs to fitness!

Got a dog? If you’re reading this, the answer is probably yes, or else it’s “I’m planning on getting one soon.” Great! Grab the leash and get ready to hit the trail, sidewalks, or parks for a path to fitness! What better weekend to start a new fitness routine than Memorial Day weekend? (…If you find yourself lapsed on your New Year’s resolution… that is!) Whether you’re in the U.S. (celebrating a long 3-day holiday weekend this weekend) or not, the last weekend in May is pretty much the official start of summer, with long days of sun, languorous lounging at the beach, and picnics in the park to kick it all off.

Results of a recent study revealed that people who have dogs and regularly walk them are 34% more likely than those that don’t have dogs to meet government-mandated physical-activity guidelines, which equates to 30 minutes of “moderate” exercise each day, at least 5 days a week.

The data, which was gathered through a telephone survey of nearly 6,000 adults, revealed that of those that owned dogs, about 61% take their dogs for regular walks, for at least 10 minutes at a time. As for the other 39%, we are pretty sure that both they – AND their dogs – could benefit from some extra daily activity! The good news from the study is simply this:  Just having a reason to move regularly (i.e. your activity-loving, walk-needing dog) has a serious advantage when it comes to meeting physical activity needs for health benefits. Walking your dog regularly means you’re much more likely than most other people to get the government recommendation of at least 150 minutes of exercise each week (though only 27% of the regular dog walkers took their dogs walking for 30 or more minutes each walk). And if this isn’t enough good news, dog walkers were also  more likely than non–dog owners to amp up their exercise to “moderately intense,” taking a walk around the block to new lengths (and speeds), perhaps going further each day, walking faster, starting a jogging routine, or more. It seems that “moving begets more moving” – exercise feels great – to you AND your dog, and taking that first step really is the hardest. Once you’re moving, it’s easy to simply keep going!

Doggone Good Benefits

Other research has suggested that owning one or more dogs can not only help encourage people  to lead more active lives, but reduce stress through bonding with their canine companion, as well as the known stress-relieving effects that regular exercise brings. Dog owners also have been found to have healthier blood pressure (see above for why!). It’s pretty simple: Dogs — like humans — need regular exercise to stay happy, healthy, and relaxed. In an earlier post, we spoke about the mental benefits to your dog from regular exercise: a daily walk can prevent cognitive dysfunction disorder in dogs (which is mental decline similar to Alzheimer’s disease in human)!

When we exercise our dogs, we exercise ourselves, too. Just don’t forget to refresh yourself on the rules of dog walking etiquette, for the benefit of your dog as well as your neighbors. So, get up off the couch and get your walking shoes on! Find a meaningful reason to walk so you’ll do it often: your muscles, your heart, your frame of mind… not to mention, your dogs… will thank you.