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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