Walk Your Dog and Unleash Better Health

If you’re a dog owner, then you know most dogs need to be walked at least once each day, although very active breeds and more hyper dogs benefit from more frequent walks. While a dog walker may be as close as an app click away on your phone, if you are one of millions having trouble sticking to an exercise program, help could be as close as your best buddy at the end of the leash. Studies show that dogs are actually your best workout partner. There's no motivation like an exercise partner who's waiting by the door with a wagging tail and who won't try to beg off from your next workout!

It’s good for you!

A University of Western Australia survey of dog owners revealed that dogs are great motivators for walking because they:

  • Provide a strong motivation to maintain a program
  • Are good walking companions
  • Provide good social support when exercising

You may wonder though, is dog walking really an effective form of exercise? Dog owners who reported walking their dogs were almost 25 percent less likely to be obese than people without dogs. In fact, according to one study, dog owners end up walking more than 23,000 miles with their pet during its lifetime—that’s almost as far as walking around the world!

Besides being good for the waistline, the benefits of walking also include improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger skeletal and muscular systems, and decreased stress levels. Simply being around a dog can lower levels of the human stress hormone, cortisol, which has also been linked to the accumulation of abdominal fat.

But that’s not all! The benefits go beyond the physical. People who walk their dogs are seen by others as more friendly and approachable, may find it easier to make friends, and have been found to have greater self-esteem. Dog walking can also connect us with nature, which can help increase focus and a sense of well-being.

It’s good for them!

Even though your dog may not forget your daily walk, you may be tempted to skip the walk and simply let your dog out for a solo romp in the backyard instead, especially on hotter Florida days. Remember though, that regular walks are important for your pet's health too. Obesity in pets is associated with a number of medical complaints including osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and insulin resistance.

Not to mention walks make dogs happy! A dog that doesn't receive sufficient exercise can easily become bored or destructive. Sitting in a backyard is a recipe for boredom—'been there, sniffed that.' They love checking out new sights and smells and catching up on the latest “pee-mail” from other dogs. And they really look forward to spending time with you.

Planning leads to more walking—less balking!

A good plan can set you up for success. So first, establish a walking schedule; plan to walk 30 minutes total each day, at least 5 days a week. You can break this up if you need to, choosing a 10-minute walk in the morning and a 20-minute walk in the evening. Or maybe three 10-minute walks throughout the day, whatever works best for your lifestyle.

Second, remember to write it down. When you "schedule" your walks into each day, you’ll feel more inclined to keep your appointments. Best of all, your dog will also get used to the routine and remind you when "it’s time!"

Some other dog walking tips:

  • Protect yourself and your dog from heat exhaustion and sunburn—make sure you both drink plenty of water before, during, and after your walk. If possible, walk during the cooler parts of the day. And when walking on pavement, remember the 7 second rule: if you can’t hold the back of your hand to hot pavement for 7 seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog’s paw pads.
  • Keep your dog on-leash in public areas.
  • Take poo bags along with you to clean up after your dog.

So grab a leash, call the pooch, and go for a walk to enjoy all the great physical and mental health benefits for both you and your dog—today and every day! Jumpstarting a healthy lifestyle program is as easy as taking the dog for a walk.

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