Does Walking the Dog Really Get You into Shape?

In the July 2018 issue of Fitness Magazine, a program in Australia received a lot of attention. Called Rescue Your Fitness, the goal of the program is to find permanent or foster homes for animals which have been rescued.

One of the ways the program has promoted itself is to show people out walking their homeless dogs. Let’s face it: going for a run with a well-behaved dog is a great experience. You get some exercise, and for the dogs in Rescue Your Fitness, there is a chance of finding them a forever home.

That brings up an interesting question: is there really a health benefit available to those who walk their dogs every day? Is this a way to get back into shape?

Dog Walking Leads to a Habit of Regular Physical Activity

People are more inclined to exercise when it is a purposeful activity for them. Someone who is trying to lose weight, for example, might decide to go for a run because their purpose is to shed a few extra pounds.

In the case of walking a dog, there is another purpose: to avoid a mess in the house or yard.

In a 2006 study on dog walking and physical activity in the United States, it was discovered that 59% of dog walkers take 2+ walks with their pets daily. 80% of dog owners took at least one walk of 10 minutes or longer with their pet. 42% would go for a walk with their dog at least 30 minutes per day.

Dog walking has also been studied in Australia. People who walk their dogs for at least 18 minutes per week (not per day) were more likely to meet the 2.5-hour physical activity recommendations per week than people who did not own a dog.

In the United Kingdom, it was discovered that people who own a new dog accumulate much more time walking than people who became new cat owners or did not own a pet.

And a final study in the United States showed that for people who are either overweight or obese, walking their dog accounted for about 70% of the total physical activities that they did in the average week.

Dog Walking Can Be a Social Experience

Walking a dog does more than providing someone with a chance to exercise. It is also an opportunity to get out and meet new people.

For Rescue Your Fitness, the social element of dog walking comes out with their planned Pack Runs. Foster homes and new owners who have worked with the program come together on these runs, walk or run with their dogs together, and get to know one another. It is an easy way to connect with new people who have shared interests.

Energetic dogs love to take a long walk. Dogs need to get out and run. Humans need to keep moving. Putting these two concepts together seems to be a recipe that can lead to weight loss and health improvement success.