Want to get healthy? Your dog can help.

Let's walk the walk

Exercise reduces stress, and what better motivator than those big eyes pleading for a walk? British researchers surveyed 5,000 participants and found that dog owners exercised up to eight hours per week more than non-dog owners frequenting health clubs. 86% of the dog owners were happy to spend time walking their dogs, while only 16% of gym-goers enjoyed their workouts. ( Wait, I love wiping a stranger’s sweat off of the abs machine!)

Other studies have shown benefits of dog ownership to include reduced stress and lowered blood pressure. Interaction with animals has been shown to lessen symptoms of depression, too. All this adds up to a tail-wagging trainer that melts off extra calories and can put a smile on your face.

Taking a walk with your dog might seem like a chore, but a simple walk can unleash benefits you haven’t even considered. Studies have shown that dog owners get more exercise than non- dog owners, and benefit from lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Walking reduces stress, and provides social benefits, too.

I see the benefits of dog-human interaction every day in my training practice. Your dog is a built-in exercise machine. Dogs should be walked two to three times per day, which releases endorphins and increases circulation for dog and owner, and burns calories. Leash walking keeps your dog calmer at home, too.

There are social benefits, too. Often, when I am out training with a client and dog, people will approach and start a conversation. We’ve even made play dates with other dog owners.

Dog parks are great places to meet like-minded dog owners, but don’t just plop on a bench. Keep moving to work off calories and stress.

The recently completed PPET study (People and Pets Exercising together) conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital concluded that dog owners and their dogs can successfully lose weight together. The study found that dogs provided support and motivation, and even initiated scheduled walks. And exercising with your dog is not limited to just walking. Take a training class in obedience or agility to get you both moving. If you are in a mellow mood, consider Dog Yoga, or Doga, for a new-age, touchy-feely activity you can both enjoy.
Just keep your dog’s tail away from the sandlewood incense.

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About truedogtrainingtails

I'm a certified dog trainer and on-camera spokesperson. Television appearances include news stories on NBC, ABC, and WGN both live and taped stories about dogs and their welfare, plus appearances on 'The Balancing Act' and 'Designing Spaces', both on Lifetime TV. My DVD for kids and dogs, entitled 'Drool School' won a Parents' Choice Foundation Award. I am D.A.R.T. certified by the Humane Society of the United States for disaster animal response, and I travelled to the Gulf Coast to help with pet rescue after Hurricane Katrina.
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