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Want to Get More Active? Walk Your Dog!

by AOSSM May 18, 2011

Contributed by Dr. David Geier

May is National Physical Activity Month and what better way to celebrate being active than to walk your dog. He'll appreciate it just as much as you will. Obviously strenuous exercise, such as running and other forms of cardiovascular exercise, and sports are are excellent ways to achieve health and meet the activity standards established by the Department of Health and Human Services. But finding simple ways for children and adults to integrate activity into their normal activities might be the best way to get people moving.

A new study published in the March issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health suggests a potentially great idea for all Americans to become more active. The study, presented by Matthew J. Reeves et al., looks at whether owning a dog and walking the dog are associated with increased physical activity. They gathered data from the 2005 Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Survey to try to determine if a relationship existed between owning a dog and physical activity.

The authors found that people who own a dog are more active overall and walk more. Dog owners who take their dogs for walks on average walk about one hour more per week than the one-third of dog owners who don't walk their dogs. Interestingly they also found that younger Americans and the elderly walked their dogs the most and that people with large dogs (weighing over 45 pounds) walked longer than owners of smaller dogs. Finally the study seems to suggest that the benefits of owning a dog, as it pertains to physical activity, may actually be more than just the actual walking, as dog owners seem to be more physically active than non-dog owners in general.

When I heard about this study, I was not terribly surprised. I always like to find easy ideas to stimulate physical activity. For instance, I think it is helpful to take the stairs instead of an elevator when possible. Also, parking at the end of the parking lot away from stores and businesses forces people to walk a little bit more with their normal activities. Owning a dog and walking it are more examples of easy changes to implement.

What this study does not address, but most dog owners will tell you, is that the benefits of having a dog are not just seen with physical activity. Most of my friends who have a dog point out the happiness that comes when their dogs greet them when they get home from work or school. They also love taking their dogs to the park and the beach. So to everyone out there who owns a dog - get outside and walk with your four-legged friend. It just might improve your health too.

What are some other ways to get more active with your four-legged friend?

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Active Advice | Playing Outside


5/27/2011 12:12:40 PM #

Walking your dog is a great way to ease into physical activity.  Many inactive people do not know how to start incorporating physical activity into their life.  I have heard people say, I can’t run or jog”, you don’t need to in order to be active.  Start where you are and build form there. Walking the family dog can be the catalyst in getting the entire family involved in incorporating physical activity into your life and begin your journey to a healthier and happier you.

Doreen United States |

5/29/2011 1:28:33 PM #

I think this is great advice! One way that we can promote healthier lifestyles in Americans is by integrating physical activity into normal parts of life, such as walking a dog. Walking your dog is not only an opportunity to spoil your dog, but your are also adding years onto your own life. The majority of Americans do not fully comprehend the importance that physical activity has on one's health and need to be further educated and encouraged to be active. This is an opportunity for all of us to increase people's knowledge about physical activity and give them fun options to engage in it too!

Brianna United States |

5/31/2011 6:14:01 PM #

I found the results of that study to be interesting, but not surprising.  I always see people walking their dogs and playing with them at the park.  I had three dogs at one time and I would walk them almost daily.  Having a dog gave me motivation to actually go out and walk or run when I may not have felt like it.  Exercising a dog is one of the many responsibilities that pet owners take on when they get a dog and it is a big commitment especially now when families are busy.

Nicole B United States |

6/5/2011 8:53:01 PM #

I was surprised by some of the information in this study. I found it interesting that younger and elderly adults walk their dog the most. In my neighborhood I usually see elderly walking smaller breed dogs.  Physical activity is an important part of maintaining your health. By walking your dog it will help not only you stay healthy, but it will help your pet stay healthy. This seems like a good way to keep the entire family active and healthy, including the four legged members.

Ldang muns United States |

7/29/2011 6:54:45 AM #

Hey I really like pets and especially dogs..You told us the fitness with a great pleasure work I will try it.

Hydraxatone United States |

10/25/2011 1:16:33 AM #

I love being with my dog. I always walk with her everyday so that she won't feel bored at home. If you have a dog, don't just bundle/bond them in your house, go play with them and have fun.

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Tammy Robertson United States |

10/26/2011 2:20:58 AM #

walking with my dog is very fun .. I don't just have fun but my body has been exercised also.
Your post has inspired me more ..

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Kathleen Eastman United States |

1/11/2012 12:30:33 PM #

I walk my dog everyday,and she loves going outside. To me, it's refrshing to go outside, and on some days it is my exercise.  

Jackiee United States |

3/18/2012 10:33:21 AM #

Dog walking is the best way to improve your physical and mental health. You can even make quite profitable business out of it.

Dragutin Croatia |

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