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They say that dogs are man’s best friends but recent research reveals that dogs are more than that. Dogs also make good walking companions, great personal trainers and excellent exercise buddies.

Dogs make a good walking companions

If your gym membership failed you or if your exercise buddy has consistently failed to show up on your every-other-day gym schedule, you can count on your dog to be your motivator as you work your way toward a healthier lifestyle.

Dog walking is an activity which can both benefit the dogs and the dog owners. Canine obesity is one of the fastest growing health conditions seen in dogs for the past years. In 2008, about 44% of dogs in the United States were either overweight or obese. Humans are not faring well, either. In fact, the figures are more alarming as each year goes by. At present, it is estimated that 64.5% of adults in the United States are overweight and 30.5% are obese. Obesity is a leading host of severe and chronic medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes mellitus. In a time when obesity and its related conditions hit an all-time high, dog walking is an effective way to achieve better health for dogs and owners.

Dog walking for a healthier body and heart

Getting your heart back in shape

Walking is a gentle, low-to-moderate impact aerobic exercise with valuable and immeasurable beneficial effects to your health, especially to your heart. Dog walking, like all the other aerobic exercises, strengthens the heart muscles so that they can pump more blood throughout the body with every beat with the least amount of effort. The heart works 24/7, and reducing its workload without compromising the amount of pumped blood can lower its risk for cardiovascular diseases and its complications like high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

Controlling your cholesterol levels

Dog walking can also keep high cholesterol at bay. Walking increases your HDL or good cholesterol, which removes the cholesterol trapped in the arterial walls and slows down the buildup of plaques. Plaque buildup can lead to high blood pressure, arterial diseases, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. A study found that those who owned and walk their dogs were 30% less likely to have high cholesterol and about 15% less likely to have high blood pressure.

Fighting obesity

Dog walking is also a great way to fight the increasing rate of obesity. In conjunction with good nutrition and lifestyle modification, walking your dog for an hour a day can burn as much as about 180 calories. To lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, which is the most ideal rate, it is recommended to create a 500-calorie deficit per day. You can achieve this by reducing 250 calories from your food intake and burning 250 calories through physical activities. After burning 180 calories, you can expend 70 calories more by doing a 15-minute stair walking or gardening for 30 to 45 minutes. Certainly, you do not need a gym membership to lose weight.

Other healthy benefits

Having regular walks with your dog improve the circulation of blood throughout the body. Blood carries nutrients and oxygen needed to sustain the most vital cellular functions and to promote tissue repair and healing.

Stress plays a major role in many of the physical and mental diseases that afflict the modern society. Depression, hypertension, immunodeficiency states and fatigue syndromes are only a few of these. Dog walking is a great way to relax your mind and enhance your sense of well-being. This activity induces the brain to release serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer.

In addition, walking your dog allows you to meet new people or rebuild social relationships with other dog owners. You might even find another set of exercise buddies to enjoy the sun with you and your canine friend.

Dogs are great motivators

You had a great start but you got busy, tired or bored. One of the biggest challenges when losing weight is maintaining the commitment and consistency to stick to your health goals. If you had problems in the past with dog walking may be the right activity for you. Dogs are routine-oriented creatures. If you make it a habit to walk with your dog, you can be assured that once boredom hits, your dog will make sure that you won’t laze around all day long on TV, snacking and munching the grease and the fats.
For some, walking the dog outdoors is more fun than going to the gym. Enjoying the walk, the sun and the scene outdoors provide more room for creativity and spontaneity. Engaging in any activity that kills you with boredom is a sure way to failure.

Healthy tips and guidelines during dog walking

Dog walking is a relaxing and healthy activity that helps enhance your physical and mental health. It is essential to take note of some simple tips and guidelines in order to make the most of its healthy benefits.

Before enjoying the outdoors with your dog, check out weather conditions and your walking route. Walking outdoors in extreme temperatures can be uncomfortable and unsafe for you and your dog. In such cases, it is recommended to stay indoors and explore other forms of exercise. In cooler temperatures, it is always recommended put a sweater on your pet, especially if he or she is a short-haired breed. If the ground is hot or icy, have your dog wear protection pads or booties. It is recommended to schedule your walks during cloudy weathers, early evenings or early mornings.

Wear appropriate exercise clothes yourself. Wear light and loose-fitting clothes when exercising to encourage free movements and promote adequate flow of blood throughout the body. It is also essential to wear the right shoes when walking your dog. Shoes with grooved, flat and flexible soles are the best for dog walking.

Keep you and your dog hydrated, especially when walking during warm weathers. Try bringing some water for your dog, too. Like humans, dogs can get thirsty and experience dehydration. You can purchase those water bottles with attached drinking cups to keep your dog cool and well-hydrated throughout the exercise.

Do not over exercise. Walking is an excellent way of getting fitter but anything done in excess is not good for your body and for your dog’s. If you feel tired or if your dog looks tired, take a break. Find a shady area where you can cool down and enjoy the sights and sounds of your environment. This is also a great time to play with your dog and talk to other dog owners.

Living healthier can be fun and exciting. With the many benefits of dog walking, it is one of the best options for better health for dogs and owners.

  • American Obesity Association. (2002). AOA fact sheets. Retrieved on July 4, 2010
  • Daily Mail Reporter (2009, November 27). How walking the dog beats going to a gym: It gives you eight hours of exercise a week. Dailymail
  • Laino, C. (2010, June 8). Walk your dog to unleash better health. WebMD Health News