How can dog walking be part of my fitness routine?

I recently got a new puppy and yes, it has increased my fitness. I make time every night to make sure I walk her. I do try to get in 10,000 steps a day and most days, walking my dog is the only way I can make sure I make my goal. It is always great to have a partner to hang out with. As she grew we went for longer walks. In addition my puppy loves to get out and about so she is the best motivator to keep me going and not lollygag on my walks. I like to walk so that is what we do, however depending on what kind of pooch you have activities can always be varied with biking, and hiking, jogging, Frisbee or whatever you can teach your dog to do. Having a dog has the potential to increase duration, frequency and intensity which are all important factors when increasing your fitness. Plus they happen to be fun and very non-judgmental.

Dawn Marcus
If you think you don’t have time to walk your dog, think again! Another research group just published a study in the journal Family & Community Health linking dog walking to improved physical fitness in dog owners. In their study, people who considered themselves to be “regular dog walkers” were more likely to get their recommended daily physical fitness. [General exercise recommendation for healthy adults: 150 minutes of moderate level exercise per week, taken in a number of shorter exercise sessions -- like dog walks!]

Here are the study highlights:
  • People who routinely walked their dogs in the neighborhood walked
           an average of over five times each week for an average of
           almost 200 minutes per week.
  • People who didn’t walk their dogs regularly walked the dog only
           about twice each week and only got in about 45 minutes of
           weekly physical exercise.
  • So two in every three regular dog walkers got their needed weekly
           exercise, compared with one in four dog owners not making
           walking a regular routine.
Interestingly, while over 80% of time spent walking was with their dog for dog walkers, dog walking contributed to only about half of the physical activity regular dog walkers got. What this means is that dog walking can help you get in your needed physical activity and make it more likely that you’ll choose other healthy activities that also boost your physical fitness.

Part of owning a dog is walking him and making sure he gets enough exercise.  Otherwise his health may be compromised.  The same holds true for humans.  Little to no exercise = health issues.  If you enjoy walking for fitness, and want to include your dog in your routine, try mixing up your route occasionally.  Since dogs should be walked daily, you can mix up your route daily as well.  Try this:

  • Monday - Flat neighborhood walk
  • Tuesday - Find some hills
  • Wednesday - Flat neighborhood walk
  • Thursday - Locate a local trail
  • Friday - Flat neighborhood walk
  • Saturday - Make your walk a little longer
  • Sunday - Try some more hills

Increasing the time you walk, as well as the type of terrain, will not only benefit your physical fitness, but your furry friends' as well.

Walking is great exercise for both you and your dog, and can easily fit into any fitness routine. Walking burns calories and increases your cardiovascular/respitory system. A complete fitness routine involves a resistance training routine and a cardio routine. To make walking with you dog a part of your fitness routine try alternating weight training days with walking/cardio days. For example Monday, Wednesday, Friday walk your dog for 50 to 60 min, weight train Tuesday, Thursday. 

I have a dog and have tried to find creative ways to get him the exercise he needs while incorporating it into my fitness plan. What I have found to be effective is to do an early morning routine with him, say around 7 a.m. What I do varies based upon how hot it is and how energetic I am. Here are the routines I choose from:

  • Walk at a reasonable pace for a solid hour.
  • Power walk for 45 minutes.
  • Do a combination of walking and jogging for 45 minutes.
  • Jog for 30 minutes.

I use this as the cardiorespiratory training component of my fitness routine. Whether you are walking, power walking, jogging, or doing some combination of the three, you can train your cardiorespiratory system if you are stressing it. So rather than taking just a casual walk with your dog, make it part of your workout and you both will benefit. 

A couple of precautionary notes:

1)  Make sure you hydrate yourself and your dog along the way, especially on those hot days. It is best to bring along a water pouch for the both of you.

2)  Be aware of the fitness levels of both yourself and your dog and build up to the longer durations and the power walking and jogging as you both become more physically fit. 

Making dog walking a part of your fitness routine is simple, just choose to do it. Walking your dog will get both of you up and out and moving. Your faithful pet needs exercise also, this is a win win routine. You burn calories and your pet gets an energy release. You can even challenge yourself with intervals of running and walking and jogging. Your pet it a great workout partner, have fun.

Your dog needs daily exercise as do you. Focusing on getting 30-minutes of moderate to intense activity on a daily basis is ideal for our bodies! If you have a companion such as a dog then you have a reason to go out daily and be active. Also, if you want to focus on strength training when at a fitness center then you will be able to complete aerobic activity with your dog before or after your exercise.

Dog walking is a great way to help you meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations of moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes each week (or 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week). If you walk your dog every day at the same time of day, your dog’s excitement about - and expectations for - going on a walk will motivate you to stick to your walking routine.
When walking, remember that CDC recommends moderate-intensity exercise. This means that your walking should be at a brisk pace for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time, and you need a total of at least 30 minutes of such exercise a day, 5 days a week. As you and your dog are able, you will benefit most from keeping the pace up for at least portions of your walk.
Man’s best friend isn’t just a great possible walking buddy: beyond the emotional rewards of caring for a pet, research has shown that petting a dog can lower your blood pressure. Both inactivity and high blood pressure are risk factors for heart disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.