Dog walkers take a step in the right direction

By on October 5, 2012

Let Fido be your personal trainer

Whether you are into big dogs with a bark worse than their bite or little yappy furballs that fit in your purse, owning a dog can be good for your health in more ways than one. These playful pooches have been known to lower blood pressure and reduce stress, but did you know that Fido or Fluffy can help you exercise? The American Heart Association recommends walking for at least 30 minutes a day for better health and walking your dog can help you start taking those extra steps.

According to a University of Missouri-Columbia study, walking the dog 20 minutes a day, five days a week produced an average weight loss of 14 pounds for participants after one year. Sticking with the program mattered. Those that stopped walking after 26 weeks did not drop significant pounds.

Walking can be anything from a slow stroll to speed walking. This may require some hard work. A good way to judge your progress is to take the talk test. If you can carry on a good monologue, then you’re not walking fast enough. If you can’t carry on a conversation, then you’re walking too fast. Be sure to keep it up for at least 30 minutes.

Taking just 2,000 extra steps is equivalent to walking an extra mile, so go ahead and grab that leash and hit the pavement with your best friend. Download a custom walking plan, for you and your dog, and access other helpful resources by the American Heart Association at www.startwalkingnow.org. Start! is the American Heart Association’s national initiative that champions walking as a way to improve heart health, in part because walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity.

Not only is physical activity important for you and your family, but it is important for your pet too. Try these ideas for participating in physical activity together:

Go on a family picnic and bring your dog. Pack some healthy snacks like fruit, veggie sticks, mixed nuts, and plenty of water (including a bowl for your dog’s drink!). Bring some fun toys like a Frisbee or ball and play a game of catch with your kids and your pet.

Cool off when it is hot by taking a run through the sprinklers. Put the kids in their swim trunks (don’t forget the SPF!) and run around with your pet in the water. Be sure to have a lot of drinking water available to stay hydrated.

Go to the open water. If you live near a beach or a lake, find a location that is pet-friendly and bring them along for a day in the sun with your kids. Don’t forget the sunscreen and water.

Participate in local walks. Find local fundraising walks, such as the Start! Heart Walk, or fun runs that are animal-friendly and bring the whole family. You will be exercising, spending time together, and supporting a great cause.

Visit a dog park. If your dog gets along well with other dogs, find a local dog park to visit for an afternoon. You and your kids can take turns playing fetch, tug-of-war, and running around with your pet.

Walk home from school. If your child walks home from school, bring the dog when you meet them at school (or even the bus stop) and walk home together. You can also walk together in the morning on the way to school or with a spouse or family member who walks to or from work.

Incorporate one or two of these tips a week and your family and your pet will thank you! Start! is sponsored nationally by SUBWAY® Restaurants and locally by Florida Hospital. For more information, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit startwalkingnow.org.

 

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