A point that has not remained un-belabored on this blog has been that any movement, however insignificant, can contribute significantly to weight loss. Anything from walking to the mailbox to running a marathon can add up if done regularly and for enough time.

One activity that 39% of US households are generally obligated to participate in is walking their dog. The Humane Society of the United States reported in 2009 that 39% of households own at least one dog. So it stands to reason that these people would get daily exercise as a consequence of taking their furry friends to relieve themselves, right?

Mathew Reeves, an associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan State University, published a study in the March Issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health which explored whether owning a dog increased the likelihood of the owner having better exercise habits. Time Online outlines the results very well here.

Results showed that out of all the dog owners who took their pet on regular walks lasting 10 minutes or more, 60% of them met minimum federal requirements for moderate to vigorous exercise. Almost 50% of these dog walkers also reported exercising 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week. When compared to participants who did not own dogs, owners had higher overall levels of activity, including dancing, gardening, and playing sports.

A study that came out of the University of Missouri last year showed that dogs are generally better walking companions than humans and that dog walkers showed a great improvement in fitness than participants who walked alone or with other people. A suggested reason for these findings was that humans could talk each other out of exercise or complain about walking conditions, but dogs would walk happily until their human was finished.

It is important to note that correlation doesn’t always result in a statement of causation. Owning a dog will not make you instantly more fit or improve your exercise regimen. This Michigan study showed that not everyone who owns dogs walks them, and some who did didn’t walk them long enough to accrue the amount of minutes necessary for moderate fitness (i.e. 150 minutes of walking per week, or 10 minute walks 3 times a day, 5 days a week). Despite these facts it cannot be ignored that in many cases dogs will get you moving when you might not otherwise choose to do so.

Yet another study which backs up the notion that you don’t have to sweat to get fit. I love the idea that if I walk with my dog twice a day for ten minutes a piece I could rack up 140 minutes of exercise a week. That is an awfully big number that is easily obtained doing something I have to do anyway (and that I enjoy doing besides!). So enjoy your puppies, give them lots of walks and get fit in the process.

Eat less and move more! And moving can be twice as fun with your best furry friend at your side. See you tomorrow!

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