Taking the lead: why walking your dog is great for you
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Dog walking is certainly a good thing for your pooch - it provides the exercise that they need, keeping down their weight, and gives them special time with their favourite person in the whole, wide world: you. It also has many benefits for the person holding the leash, both for your physical and mental health. Man's best friend can live up to their title - helping their human friend on their walkies.
On average, dog walkers take their furry friends out at least four times a week, walking around 160 minutes a week. As Bupa notes, this is great for achieving the recommended levels of physical activity over a week. To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity - this includes brisk walking.
In a study published in the journal BMC Public Health last year, dog walkers on average walked 22 minutes more per day compared to people who didn't own a dog. The study found that they walked briskly and got their heart rates up - and at times, their pace was about three miles per hour (considered moderate intensity). According to NPR, previous studies have shown that this walking intensity is just as effective as running in lowering the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes.
You don't need a gym membership if you own a dog, because you could be getting more exercise with your pet. Another study by pet healthcare experts Bob Martin found that, on average, dog owners exercise their animal twice a day for 24 minutes each time - a total of five hours and 38 minutes a week. Add on the long walks (three times a week) - and that's another two and a half hours. Those without a dog, on the other hand, tend to spend an average of one hour and 20 minutes exercising by going to the gym or heading out for a stroll or dog, the Daily Mail reports.
There is also more satisfaction after dog walking, compared to the gym. The study found that 86 per cent of dog walkers enjoy taking their pet out, while 22 per cent found it a chore. Only 16 per cent enjoy going to the gym, while 70 per cent found it hard work.
Dog walking is not only good exercise, it is great therapy, too. Psychology Today writes that it boosts energy motivation, helping "propel you out the door day after day, in fair weather or foul". It is also a method to manage stress. Research shows that being around a dog can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and it can dampen other psychological stress responses.
The next time you say "walkies" to your dog, they shouldn't be the only one wagging their tail (or behind). Walking your dog is beneficial to both you and your pooch, improving physical and mental health.