Friday, September 14, 2007
Fido forcing fitness

I never need an alarm clock. That's because I have a Jack Russell named Nipsey. Every morning at 5 a.m. he's up, ready for his morning walk. And because he likes to relax on weekends as much as my husband and I do, he lets us sleep in until 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

There are very few people, let alone animals, I would get up for that early in the morning... but I do. Every day, rain or shine, sleet or hail, my hubby or I throw on his harness and leash and trudge up the street. Then we walk again in the afternoon and twice in the evening. Sometimes we stroll for a while, other times it's just for a quick jaunt, but he is the reason I get out and hit the pavement.

It's no secret that dogs can motivate us to get off the couch. In a recent study by the Bassett Research Institute in Cooperstown, New York, scientists investigated whether overweight people who have overweight dogs might be able to partner with their pets in a healthy program of diet and exercise in order to lose weight. The study followed volunteers both with and without canine companions. They all were provided with nutrition counseling and instruction on a regular walking program. The dogs were even given low-fat dog food. Researchers found, to no surprise, that both groups lost weight, but it was the walking group with pooch partners that kept the weight off after the diet was over. And even the four legged participants lost pounds.

So can Fido be a secret weapon to fight obesity? Many doctors say yes, because pets give owners, especially children, the opportunity to participate in some exercise they normally wouldn't get. A study from Wales looked at walkers both with and without furry friends and found that almost 41 percent of dog owners walk, on average, 18 minutes per week longer than people without dogs. Physicians have also found that walking with your pup can improve your overall health. When doctors from the University of Missouri Columbia gave dogs to inner city families who lead sedentary lifestyles, they found the new walkers bonded with their animals, improved their flexibility, balance, lost weight and felt better about themselves.

I know a dog can be a major commitment. In order to keep them healthy, they take time, a lot of care and especially love. But that's what makes it work....I walk with Nipsey, because I love him and that's why it's easier to exercise with my little guy, then it is to get on my treadmill in the basement.

Do you have a dog walking routine that works...or a passion that keeps you motivated to exercise? Let us know. We'd like to hear about it.

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My daughter (28 years old) and I (55) walk each morning before she goes to work. It's much easier to commit to walking when you know someone is expecting you to meet with them at a specific time.

We are motivated to loose a few pounds because of a planned cruise this coming January. My daughter has been quite heavy most of her life and now weighs less then she did in high school! Best of all, our overall well-being is reflected in our positive attitudes! We love the added benefit of feeling
Our one-year old terrier mix, Pepper, has a great deal of energy. After preparing for her arrival with multiple episodes of "The Dog Whisperer," my significant other and I decided we would do as Caesar does and walk her twice a day, for a half-hour minimum each time. Pepper and I go out every morning at 5:30, even on weekends, and she goes out with my s.o. every night for a half-hour run. We have missed a total of one morning walk and one evening walk since early April -- so it really does work.
My jogging partner is a medium-sized mongrel dog. Before she came to my house, I had often made many excuses to myself and skipped jogging. Now she waits for running with me every morning and night, though she usually gets exhausted faster than me. I love sharing the time with her, and I became an earnest jogger thanks to her.
That sounds like a much better option than a cabbage soup diet and marathon training sessions at the gym! Think about all the additional benefits a dog brings and there simply is no contest. Many people who struggle with inactivity and obesity are simply lonely. A dog will take care of that and the health problems in one go. Get that pooch now. It can only be good for you.
I used to absolutely despise walking, and then I fell in love with a puppy from the Human Society. Eragon is one of the most energetic dogs I know, so it is imperative that I walk him on a regular basis. Because of Eragon, I have seen some very beautiful neighborhoods I would never have bothered to explore on my own, and have come to truly love walking with my puppy. It has also helped me to stay fit and lose weight, and he's also helped me to destress!
I have two dogs (one a Jack Russell, also) that in no way let me forget that they need to walk everyday. I would still be sitting on my butt if it wasn't for them! I remember going to a Weight Watchers meeting were the meeting leader claimed that walking your dog wasn't really exercise. Obviously, she'd never walked with my two personal trainers. :)
You know--I'd like to know when "obesity" became the new "Oh, my God!" illness du jour.

Not that long ago, it was smoking. Not that long ago, it was toxins on fruit and vegetables. Etc. Ad nauseum.

If a person is overweight, s/he will die on average about 3 years early. If a person is obese, s/he will die on average about 7 years early. If a person is underweight, s/he will die even sooner!

Now--you know what? If you take all the time that the gym rats spend on the treadmill in a lifetime and added it all up--what do you want to bet it would make about 3 years?

So, I lose three years of my life because I am enjoying myself--or I lose 3 years of my life on a device which was originally designed in France as an instrument of torture (not a joke--look it up).

It is my opinion that the current demonizing of people who are even mildly "overweight" is problematic in four ways.

First, it is a ridiculous American attempt to control one's passing. Being a "healthy" weight is not going to guarantee one a long life and health--you can just get over that fallacy right now.

Second, it creates a group of scapegoats that everyone can hate without compunction and exclude without compunction--the people who are too lazy to even walk their dogs (garbage). The people who cost everyone in health care bills (garbage). The people who make plane fares go up (garbage). Let's hate the fatties!

Third, one main reason that people wind up "overweight" in the first place is due to doctors giving them ridiculous treatments--the starvation diet I was put on 20 years ago killed my metabolism and lead to weight gain. The medication my doctor put me on for "compulsive eating" made me put on 50 pounds--though he swore up and down it was my fault for being inactive, which I wasn't. Five years after I quit taking it against his wishes (and he was nasty to me during that whole time), I looked the medication up. First side effect listed? Weight gain. Duh.

Fourth--has it dawned on a soul that the generation which is now "overweight" to the tune of 60% was the first generation who had to do mandatory, idiotic PE in schools? That, the more it gets mandated, the fatter kids get? I would love to see one single, properly run study that demonstrates that instituting a mandatory PE class in an average school with an average PE teacher resulted in a healthy lifestyle in later life. Any takers? I'll bet not, as you'd prove the opposite of what you want to believe.

Even the CDC has admitted that the data about how people die from diseases related to being overweight is bad data.

Yes, it is best to be a healthy weight. But, people should figure out what their natural, healthy weight is with their normal diet (not some kind of painful regimen) and with a pleasant level of exercise (no, I can't walk my dog. Walk in my neighborhood and take your life into your own hands)--and just stay there.

It is "helpful" articles like yours which suggest that having a "healthy" lifestyle involves walking a dog four times a day that help to demonize the "other"--can we say Yuppie lifestyle where people are home during the day and in the evening and not working two jobs and living in neighborhoods where walking is dangerous?

Can we stop simultaneously oversimplifying and demonizing being overweight? Weighing 300 pounds is a big deal. Being 40 pounds overweight is a minor issue with minor effects--seriously. Seven years (on average) is not a big deal, people. The average overweight person can't afford to live that seven years in retirement anyway! Think of the money you save in Social Security when they kick the bucket while still working. Anyone added up that savings yet?
It is so true about my dog motivating me to get out and walk. If he doesn't get out he will keep brining me things like socks, the couch pillows, shoes or slippers. Each time I have to get up I grab my walking gear and get out the door so that we can both get our energy worked out. It is great. Even if I am exhausted he keeps me going. We are both in great shape. He has been helping me train for a marathon. He walks 12 miles with me one day a week and the rest of the week the walks are nice and easy. I know that I can always count on him to want to walk no matter what the weather is.
I agree with Val. A furry companion encourages a person to get moving. I have a Corgi and we walk every morning and evening. And yes, it is tempting to roll over and take a few extra z's in the morning, but knowing he is waiting for his walk encourages me to get up and get going.
As a stay at home mom with a husband who is rarely at home, my motivation to get up and get moving is my kids - but not in the way you think. The health club where I work out has a day care center. That's the only hour a day I get to spend without children. Exercise is my daily break.
I used to walk my dog every day because we lived in an apartment. Now I have 2 dogs and we have a house with a wonderful backyard. We still walk every day that I'm home. They love it and it's a great way to bond, not to mention good exercise for us all. Now I have to travel for long periods because of work. The hotel they have me staying at is right off a paved path by a river -- a very nice place to walk. Except it's not the same without my 2 4-legged kids. I seem to have forgotten how to walk if I don't have leashes to hold on to -- & it's just not as fun without the dogs.
I have joked that my 13 month old Rottweiler is my personal trainer. But it's actually true. She has put me on a schedule of 2 mile runs every day at 6am and after work, another 1-2 mile walk. I haven't seen the inside of my gym for months. It is a very nice variation to my daily workout and it keeps her very balanced throughout the day.
I have three big mutts that I walk every day. I just turned 30 and am happy to be 4 pounds lighter than at 29! I also use our walks as a way to promote our local shelter and events, to encourage positive pet ownership and TALK TO MY NEIGHBORS- something I might not do as much without my buddies. A 120 pound woman walking over 200 pounds of dog tends to attract some attention!
I have MS and am too weak to walk my two 65 plus pounds each dogs on a leash, so I take them to the off-leash dog park on the river nearly every day.

It is not only great for them, but great for our bonding and wonderful for me. I average a five mile walk each day there, through some rough terrain, and I have amazed myself and my neurologist by the strength I have maintained that way. The dog park has replaced formal physical therapy for me (I call it my MS Challenge).

I have met the most amazing people and dogs and have forged great friendships. The exercise and connection to dogs, people and nature has helped my depression and strengthened my determination to minimize the limitations MS presents.

I am a much happier, healthier, better person because of the experiences and recommend off-leash dogs to everyone with social, well-mannered dogs. Lots of exercise, stimulation and adventure also reduces canine - and human - agression.

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