The Evidence Is In—Dogs Help People Meet Healthy Exercise Targets

Your best fitness coach may be the one at the end of the leash.

Later this year, the Journal of Physical Activity and Health will publish the results of a review of medical studies conducted over the last twenty years that have investigated whether sharing your home with a dog results in people becoming more physically active. This study proves what most dog owners already know—having a dog at your side helps keep you fit.

The World Health Organization recommends that healthy adults participate in moderate level aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Moderate level exercise means you can still carry on a conversation while you’re exercising, but you wouldn’t be able to sing. If you can sing while exercising, you’d probably need to pick up the pace to achieve moderate exercise.  For most people, brisk dog walks result in moderate level exercise. When you get more fit, you may need to add some hills to your walk to boost your exercise level.

This new research analyzed the results from almost thirty studies investigating the effects of owning a dog on physical activity. Here are the results:

  • Nearly two in three dog owners walked their dogs.
  • Most people walked their dogs 4 times each week.
  • The average dog walker met exercise targets by walking the dog. On average, the time spent walking the dog was 160 minutes per week.

To meet your exercise target with dog walking, you could take Molly for a 10-minute walk in the morning and another in the evening every day. You could alternatively take Duke for a 30-minute walk five evenings per week. And, of course, your dog probably won’t complain if you walk extra and exceed the 150 minute per week recommendation.

So when you’re wondering how to get into better shape and stick with an exercise program, put down those fitness center brochures and whistle for your live-in personal trainer. Research proves it—your best coach may be the one at the end of the leash.

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