Want to lose weight, feel great, and make a critter happy? All you need to do is start walking a dog. (Don’t have one? Check with your neighbor or a family member and I’m certain you’ll be met with thanks for the offer. I hear there is even an app for that now!)
Dog walking is a fitness routine. In a recent survey done randomly with households in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, it was reported that dog owners spent an average of 300 minutes a week in mild to moderate activity. That is what fitness guidelines explain match weight loss exercise recommendations of an hour a day, most days of the week. Those without dogs averaged only 168 minutes. The dog walkers reported that they designed their human schedule in a way that they’d have time to walk their canine companion and felt obligated to keep that schedule, when other obligations when out the window.
That time gives the dog walker the opportunity to burn about 600 extra calories a week. Over a year’s time, unless food is increased, the dog walker can burn off or prevent adding about ten pounds.
A previous study by the University of Missouri-Columbia matched new walkers with loaner dogs and they lost an average of 14 pounds in a year. The advertising billed the program: Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound. But of course, any kind of dog who enjoys a walk will do the trick.
The health benefits from dog ownership have long been understood. Cohabitating with a canine can lower blood pressure, increase mental attitude and sharpness and decrease the risk of heart disease. According to the study, this is the first time that the benefits from dog walking have been proven. Proven nicely with the average weight loss of 14 pounds, and best yet, the participants reported that they began to walk to finish errands and enjoyed other types of exercise and sports. “Many of them [participants] told us that they didn’t necessarily walk in the study because they knew it was good for their health; they enjoyed walking because they knew it was good for the animals,” said researcher Rebecca Johnson.
There is nothing in the world like the look of a dog who begs to go for a walk. So if Fido or Rover need to lose a few, and you do too, here’s a plan:
- Make sure your pooch is well (and you are, too) enough to get out to walk. Small breeds need extra TLC. However, they’re often more interested in walking and are just as “walkable” as the larger retrievers and Labs. Get a check up for Fido.
- Start slowly, especially if you or Fido hasn’t exercised in a while. Get a pedometer or chart your walk using the map system on google.com. Add time and mileage as you both feel more fit.
- Always leash your dog and walk at a comfortable pace. If Fido needs some obedience school brush up work, then enroll and you’ll enjoy the walking much more. By the way, many cities now require dog walkers to carry “clean up bags,” some require that the bags be visible when walking.
- Select a route where you’re both comfortable. Avoid busy streets or areas where there might be construction, traffic situations, loose dogs, or other dangers. You may want to walk the routes alone, before you bring along your best friend.
- Keep ID on your pet and yourself. Carry your cell phone.
- Stay hydrated. A friend carries a small inflatable plastic dog bowl, so that when Toughies and “mom” get to the park, they can each sit for a moment and drink.
- Locate safe rest spots or areas where you and Fido can sit on the grass. Make sure it’s okay to walk your dog in the area where you’re planning to exercise. For instance some parks, beaches and lake area, do not allow dogs and their human companions will be cited by authorities if the laws are broken.
- For you, wear walking shoes and clothing that can be taken off or put on depending on temperature change.
- Watch for signs of Fido’s fatigue. Slow your pace, or if she’s bouncing and anxious to go, walk more quickly.
- End the walk with a treat for Fido, such as a brushing or an affection ear rub. If Fido must watch her weight, avoid food treats, but offer clean, fresh water and a cool place to stretch out. Why that goes for you, too.
Need more incentive? Dogs (and humans) who exercise every day are happier and healthier. More so, studies prove that they’re trimmer and often avoid age-related illnesses. They live longer. Check out the selection of books that will inspire you to walk the day by popping the words “dog fitness” online.