When You Walk Your Dog, Remember You’re Also Walking Yourself!Dogs
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
I confess. I’m a major dog lover. My husband Eric and I are the proud ‘parents’ of five German Shepherds. They are indeed a critical part of our family, partly because they play a huge role in keeping us happy and healthy.
The benefits of owning a dog are numerous. I have discussed the health benefits before, and they include better mental health, less stress and improved metabolic health. And now, I also want to highlight how owning a dog may help you achieve your exercise goals.
First things first. How much exercise do you need?
Let’s abide by what the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says. The NIH suggests that adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week (or you could do a combination of the two).
Unfortunately, many Americans do not appear to be reaching this weekly exercise quota.
There is recent evidence which suggests that 80 percent of American adults do not exercise enough. And exercise is absolutely invaluable when it comes to maintaining good health. Being physically active can help reduce our risk of developing chronic, debilitating diseases such as depression, obesity, heart disease, cancer and more.
Exercise should not be viewed as a tool we only use when we want to lose a few extra unwanted pounds. Moving your body should be a regular part of your proactive healthcare routine, and daily exercise may even help you live longer.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Liverpool revealed that people who own dogs are more likely to hit that 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
To give you a bit more perspective, this report discussing the study says that dog owners are estimated to be four times more likely than adults who do not own dogs to meet the weekly exercise goal.
The report says that only 66 percent of men and 58 percent of women in England and less than 50 percent of adults in the United States meet the recommended amount of exercise per week.
“Dog ownership is expected to encourage physical activity, but it has been unclear whether this effect occurs in all members of a dog-owning household, or whether dog walking replaces other forms of exercise,” according to the report.
The researchers also found that overall owning a dog and dog walking did not replace other forms of physical exercise. In other words, just because a dog owner may walk his or her dog three times a day, does not mean this person will necessarily skip the gym.
And walking may provide great health benefits.
Many people underestimate how powerful walking is, because it may not be as intense as running or riding a bike.
“The cardiovascular benefits of walking are biologically plausible; like other forms of regular moderate exercise, walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress,” according to Harvard Health.
“And if cardiac protection and a lower death rate are not enough to get you moving, consider that walking and other moderate exercise programs also help protect against dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.”
The recent study was conducted by taking a look at self-reported physical activity of 385 households in West Cheshire, United Kingdom. These households included 191 adults who owned dogs, 455 adults who did not own dogs and 46 children.
The results revealed that dog owners walk more frequently and for longer periods of time compared to non-dog owners. Furthermore, the study revealed that 64 percent of dog owners reported that they walk their dogs at least 150 minutes per week. So just walking your dog alone could make you reach the weekly target for exercise.
It is important to note, however, that other studies have shown that this percentage among dog owners in the U.S. is much lower. So if you are especially mindful and make the effort to walk your dog at least two to four blocks per walk, you can really rack up those minutes of exercise you need on a weekly basis.
But what if you are just not a ‘dog person?’
As much as it pains me to say this, not everyone enjoys dogs. If you do not care to own a dog, you can still implement daily walking habits. Think of it as walking yourself to better health. You can do this by:
- Walking after evening meals instead of hitting the couch to watch television. This may also aid in digestion.
- Suggesting to your colleagues that you all have walking meetings instead of sitting in the conference room. This is also a great way to promote creativity and ease stress.
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Parking further away from the entrance.
- Setting a reminder on your phone to get up and walk every hour or so at your desk job.
- Marching in place during commercials while watching your favorite TV programs.
- Walking instead of reaching for that bag of chips or glass of wine when you feel stressed. Take deep breaths and listen to some uplifting or relaxing music. This stress management technique really helps!
Fuel your walks with proper nutrition.
As always, you have to look at your health from a holistic standpoint. Without good nutrition, you will not be able to reap the benefits of walking.
The saying, ‘You can’t outtrain a bad diet’ couldn’t be more accurate. You will likely be overweight and have health issues if your diet regularly consists of processed, junk foods despite how much you exercise.
In addition to this, you need the proper nutrients to help your body perform at its best when exercising as well as recover post exercise. And ladies, click here to learn about specific nutrients you especially may need when exercising.
Maintain nutritional balance.
It is my opinion that one of our greatest health downfalls is nutritional deficiency and imbalance. If we do not have the proper intake of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, our bodies are more likely to not function efficiently and you may be at an increased risk of developing diseases.
Fortunately, we can conquer nutritional imbalance by taking routine nutrient tests. And if the test reveals we have too little or too much of a certain nutrient, we can work with a competent healthcare professional regarding making the necessary dietary changes and implement supplementation if necessary.
Do you own a dog? How often and for how long do you normally walk your dog? Has this helped you health-wise? Please join the conversation.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.