Our new puppy, Duke, at 8 1/2 weeks.
A dog could be your answer to controlling body weight and meeting the federal government's recommendations for physical activity (150-300 minutes per week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise). The results of a study published in the September 2008 issue of Preventive Medicine suggest that dog walkers are more likely to meet the national recommendations for physical activity than dog owners who do not walk their dogs and those individuals who do not own dogs.
Evidence from the study also suggests that dog walking can help to control body weight. The study found that dog walkers were significantly less likely to be obese than non-dog owners and dog owners who don't walk their dogs.
The purpose of the study conducted by Coleman et al., was to investigate differences in demographics, neighborhood environment (e.g., walkability), body weight, and physical activity level between dog owners and non-dog owners. The 2,199 subjects were selected from 32 neighborhoods in the Baltimore, Maryland and Seattle, Washington regions. Census data was used to determine high versus low income neighborhoods. Neighborhoods were also rated based on degree of walkability (the ability of inhabitants to walk to nearby destinations from their homes). Physical activity level was determined via accelerometer use and body weight and height were self-reported by the subjects. Subjects were divided into three groups: dog owners who walked their dogs, dog owners who did not walk their dogs, and non-dog owners.
In general, the dog walkers in the study were more likely to be caucasian and to live in higher income neighborhoods than the non-dog owners and owners who didn't walk their dogs. Both groups of dog owners tended to be caucasian, of an older age, and to live in neighborhoods of higher income compared to the non-dog owners. Furthermore, when compared to dog owners who did not walk their dogs, dog walkers were more likely to live in neighborhoods that were rated as being "high-walkable."
Choosing to walk your dog can be a health benefit to both you and your pet. Before beginning a walking routine with your canine companion there are some points to consider:
Don't own a dog?
- You both should get a physical to ensure the safety of the exercise.
- Different dog breeds require and tolerate different levels of activity. For instance, my new puppy, Duke, is a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Because he is a large breed dog, he is prone to joint problems and, therefore, should not go for jogs or long runs with me. However, as he gets older he is capable of going on brisk walks, and even hikes, with me. For the time being, I am choosing to have Duke as my warm-up companion. He joins me for a light walk before I embark on my run.
- Third, if you do not live in a walkable neighborhood, consider visiting a local dog park to get exercise for both you and your pet.
You still can reap the benefits of dog walking by becoming a volunteer dog walker for your local animal shelter or humane society. Or, offer to walk a friend's or neighbor's dog.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Preventive Medicine, Volume 47, Issue 3, September 2008, pp. 309-312; "Physical Activity, Weight Status, and Neighborhood Characteristics of Dog Walkers," Coleman, K.J., et al.
Labels: dog walking, dogs, exercise, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, health