Years ago I had a strong desire to leave the gym and knew that many of my clients wanted other options as well. However, it was an article in Vogue magazine that really inspired me to take action. The article highlighted several Hollywood celebrities that had decided to take their exercise outdoors and leave the gym behind.
Since staying in shape was their business, I was intrigued. Drew Barrymore shared how she had switched from going to the gym to hiking in the hills with her dogs. So, I left the gym and started walking my dogs daily for the majority of my exercise and I’ve been teaching clients how to exercise outside of the gym ever since!
Since I have successfully lost weight and maintained it for years walking my dogs daily, I got really excited when I came across this University of Missouri-Columbia study.
YOU CAN LOSE WEIGHT WALKING YOUR DOG 20 MINUTES A DAY
The study showed that walking a dog 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week produced an average weight loss of 14 pounds for participants.
Study participants were people who were not regular walkers. They began by walking loaner dogs 10 minutes per day, three times each week. Eventually, the participants walked up to 20 minutes per day, five times each week. Those who followed this program for 50 weeks lost an average of 14 pounds.
The ones who walked only 26 weeks didn’t see much weight loss. “Even though we didn’t see a significant amount of weight loss in the group that walked for a shorter period of time, by the end of the study, all the participants were walking for longer periods of time and walking for daily errands instead of using some other type of transportation,” said researcher Rebecca Johnson in a press release.
DOGS ARE GREAT ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNERS
“Many of the participants reported that they didn’t necessarily walk in the study because they knew it was good for their health; they enjoyed walking because they knew it was good for the animals,” said Johnson in the press release.
I’ve been a personal trainer for over 22 years. From my experience, most people need a “reason” to exercise. Doing it just because it’s good for you is usually not enough. Walking the dog gives the activity a purpose. Being around animals is also relaxing. On the days I feel like skipping our walk, all I have to do is take one look at my dogs and even a short walk is going to happen. Let’s face it, we tend to take better care of ourselves when another life depends on us.
TOP REASONS CANINES MAKE GREAT WALKING PARTNERS:
1) Always eager to go. Humans can make excuses due to weather, lack of sleep, or too many other priorities.
2) Always on time. Your furry friend will not make you wait.
3) Allows time away from chatter. Being with a dog allows you to unplug from electronics and every day stimulation. It’s a great time for meditation and fresh ideas. You won’t be scrolling through your smartphone because you are paying attention to your dog.
4) See the world through your dog’s eyes. Dogs stop to smell the grass. They are fascinated with nature. My dogs inspire me to truly soak in the great outdoors.
PROOF THAT WALKING WORKS FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Walking with a dog can often be more of a stroll, and this study used participants who were new to walking for exercise. That’s great news. The good results seen for those who stuck with the program for a year proves that simple regular walking for weight control and lifestyle change works.
Beyond the 20 minutes they spent walking, researchers reported that they began adding more activity into their lives. The additional activity beyond the 20 minutes of dog walking is probably a large factor in their continued weight loss. Some even adopted dogs themselves or began volunteering to walk dogs at the local dog shelter.
The results from this study are very encouraging. They help prove that consistency and focusing on one healthy habit eventually lead to more. The most important thing to note here is that the participants had a purpose that helped keep them from giving up. Staying consistent is key when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off for good.
It’s no secret I love dogs. We have four. However, I realize that not everyone wants to own a dog or is in a position to do so. If you think you’d enjoy walking a dog, consider volunteering to be a dog walker at your local animal shelter. Walking shelter dogs helps keep them from getting anxious or out of shape while they are waiting for their new forever home. It’s a wonderful community service.
If you are thinking about getting a dog please consider adopting. Petfinder.com is a great place to find a loving dog that needs a home.
Whether you have your own canine or not, I would encourage you to have a purpose to exercise. Mowing your yard, playing team sports, walking your kids to school, and working out to remain strong enough to do the things you enjoy are all examples of purpose-driven exercise. Having a reason to exercise makes it more meaningful and you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
Have a personal dog walking story or “reason” you exercise you’d like to share? Please leave me a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you!
Here’s to wagging tails and fit humans!