Have you ever thought of your dog as a personal trainer? They have this amazing ability to get us off our butts and out the door, rain or shine. I am confident in saying our furry friends inspire us to do more than we would otherwise. It may be a simple walk around the block late at night. Or perhaps it’s an entire day to take a road trip to a park for a picnic and hike. Whatever the excursion, our dogs really can take credit for improving our own fitness. It’s not just about walking though, as there are many health benefits from dogs. And now there is a study that suggests dogs make great personal trainers.
Health benefits of having a dog
It’s also true that dogs can reduce feelings of loneliness and help people who may be prone to depression.
Did you know they can also help our children as well?
By having a dog in the house around our children, their microbiota can be altered. This in turn lowers their chance of developing allergies later in life and also decreases their chances of obesity.
I think this latter one is a biggie in the western world right now. I’m sure you’ve seen on the news that childhood obesity is a big concern everywhere!
We probably don’t need any more excuses to own a dog. However it’s great to know there are also health benefits of having one.
What do the Health Authorities say about exercising?
Back to the whole personal trainer thing now, and I’m going to tell you about a recent study. Before I do, it may not surprise you to hear the WHO (World Health Organisation) have recommended levels of activity. This applies to us all, whatever stage of life we are at. Let’s pull out one of these recommendations, which refers to adults who are aged 65 and older.
The WHO suggest that these adults should try and achieve a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week. If the activity is more vigorous in nature, the recommendation is 1.25 hours instead. Now these are guidelines only. We know this may vary from week to week, depending on what people have going on in their lives. But these guidelines work on averages over time. It’s good to keep an eye on these recommendations every so often, making sure we are “measuring up”.
A common saying from Physiotherapists
My mother used to be a physiotherapist. Within these circles there is a well-known saying: “Use it or lose it”. As we age (and I’m not even talking about being that old) this becomes very true. I’m in my 40’s now, and I sometimes make weird noises when I get out of a chair. I also get general aches and pains, especially if I push myself to do something out of the ordinary. I shudder to think what this would be like if I didn’t keep up some level of base fitness! This base fitness level can definitely be helped by getting out and about with your dog!
Why is walking so good for us?
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise, balancing cardiovascular fitness without over-stressing our joints. So another big tick for out walking with the dog! This is getting better and better.
What does this study reveal?
So what did this study actually reveal. In a nutshell, there are real benefits of walking with your dog.
It was conducted in the United Kingdom, and researchers used activity monitors which were able to tell the difference between walking and being sedentary. Not only that, but these monitors are able to distinguish between sitting, standing and lying down. So perhaps a bit more advanced than a pedometer or a Fitbit!
As part of the study the research team were able to evaluate the time spent walking, just standing or even sitting.
Results showed that the dog owners walked an average of 22 minutes more than the non-dog owners, and they also walked an extra 2,760 steps per day. Wow!
Did you know you can track your fitness together with your dog’s? There is a great piece of technology that fit’s to your dog’s collar, and can connect to the most common human fitness devices too. You can read about this dog fitness tracker here.
“Over the course of a week, this additional time spent walking may in itself be sufficient to meet WHO recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity,” says study co-author Philippa Dall, a senior research fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.
As well as this extra time walking, the study also found that dog owners spent less continuous time sitting down than other adults. Hardly surprising is it, when we get up to let our dogs out for a toilet stop or play with them!
Based on their results, the researchers suggest that health professionals could promote dog ownership as a way to encourage older adults to be more physically active. Shared ownership is an alternative, for those who might not want total responsibility, but want to experience the health benefits of having a dog.
“Ultimately, our research will provide insights into how pet ownership may help older people achieve higher levels of physical activity or maintain their physical activity levels for a longer period of time.”
Nancy Gee, study co-author, WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition
Based on their results, the researchers suggest that health professionals could promote dog ownership or shared ownership as a way to encourage older adults to be more physically active.
My final word
The benefits of walking with your dog are immense. Imagine if we get to the day where Doctors can prescribe a dog to benefit our health! Hopefully there would be screening to make sure a person is suitable to own a dog first though. But on that note, I will leave you to ponder the possibilities.
If you have any comments you would like to make, or feel your dog helps you keep healthy, please drop me a line below. I would love to hear from you.