Benefits of Exercising with Your Dog
My fastest 5k time is 27:30. My slowest 5k time is 50:45. That was just a few weeks ago. I wasn’t injured. I was “jogging” with my dog.
You may be thinking, “Why would your dog slow you down that much? Is she old?” Nope – Maddie is only three years old. But she’s not a golden retriever, black lab or a Border Collie. Maddie is a Shih Tzu. That’s right, even little lap dogs are great exercise buddies. Every time I see a race that’s dog friendly, I rush to sign us up.
That’s why I’m so excited for Dash for the Beads on February 25th! Not only are dogs allowed, they are encouraged! One of the race freebies is even a bandana just for your pooch.
Dog Walking = More Calories Burned (more treats for both of you)
Exercising with your dog is a fun, rewarding way to stay fit and healthy. Researchers at my alma mater, The University of Missouri-Columbia, found that having a pet can encourage owners to get more exercise, and it results in more weight loss than most nationally known diet plans.
If you’re like me, and don’t see Shih Tzu-walking as a real sweat session, that’s okay – keep walking, but don’t skip your more vigorous workouts. (When I used to run with my niece, a German Shepard, now THAT was a workout!)
But don’t discount those dog walks, either. If you and your dog walk at a moderate pace, just three miles per hour, you can burn 60 calories in 20 minutes. Do that twice a day; and you’re burning an extra 120 calories each day, or 840 calories per week. Ginnie Emmott, Methodist Health System’s Fitness Supervisor, says you should think of the walk as a treat, not a chore. Instead of thinking, “I have to take the dog for a walk,” what about, “I’m going to let the dog walk me.” Emmott says changing your mindset can increase your motivation. Plus, Emmott adds, “If your dog runs after a squirrel, you can run with it for interval training! More calories burned!”
Maddie and I Have a Combined Goal Weight
She would be so upset if she knew I was sharing this…but at her last vet appointment, the doctor said Maddie should not gain any more weight…and maybe even lose a pound. Hey, a pound is a lot when you only weigh 14 of them! Weight control, digestive health, and behavioral therapy are just a few of the benefits your dog will get from frequent walks.
You’ll get multiple benefits, too. Caroline Susie, Methodist Health System’s Manager of Employee Wellness, says “regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.”
Susie says daily exercise does more than help you control your weight. It also:
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Reduces the risk of some cancers
- Helps strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improves your mental health
Why Your Dog is Better Than A Gym
- Your dog won’t cancel on you
- When your dog gets on a routine, he will start DEMANDING walks at a certain time
- Spending time with your dog helps strengthen your bond and creates trust
- Your treadmill doesn’t have doe eyes or a wagging tail. It also doesn’t give you kisses.
Protect Your Pup
I work at a human hospital, not a veterinarian’s office – but I still want to remind you of a few things to keep your pet safe.
- Asphalt can get very hot in Texas, so keep a close eye on your dogs in warm weather, or better yet, walk in the grass.
- If you’re walking more than just around the block, bring a water bottle and a travel bowl.
- Of course, no dog can sweat, so avoid the hottest parts of the day. Dogs with short snouts like my Maddie have an even harder time cooling themselves. Even 75 degrees can be too hot for a long walk.
- Signs of overheating are heavy panting, pale gums or foaming at the mouth.
- Talk to your vet before you and your dog go on serious workouts
Dash for the Beads
I hope Maddie and I see you and your dogs at Dash for the Beads in Kidd Springs Park on February 25th! You can sign up -here-. Money raised promotes programs for health, fitness and wellness for children in Oak Cliff.
As always, before you begin a new fitness program, check with your doctor. If you need a physician, click -here-.
Stacy Covitz oversees the public relations team to ensure media coverage and handle media requests. She works with Methodist's leadership team and community directors to develop community relations plans that support the four hospitals that are part of Methodist Health System. Stacy also supervises print and digital internal and external publications, including Shine, the consumer health magazine. Away from work, you’ll likely see Stacy out with her dog, Maddie, or cheering for the Kansas City Royals.