RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Having a workout buddy increases your likelihood of exercising, but what should you do when your partner-in-calorie-burning cancels more often than she shows up? Well, maybe you should turn your attention to that lump of fur at your knees clamoring for your attention. Given some simple training (and the help of some safety tips), your pooch could turn out to be your most reliable workout buddy. “It’s sort of becoming a trend that your best workout buddy is your dog,” says Arden Moore, pet expert and author of Healthy Dog: The Ultimate Fitness Guide for You and Your Dog (Dog Fancy Books) (BowTie Press, 2004).
THE DETAILS: Many researchers have made the connection between dogs and the health of their owners. One in particular, from the University of Missouri, found that overweight people who walked their dog each day dropped an average of 14 pounds through the course of a year. That’s more success than people often experience with some weight-loss plans! Plus, it’s fun. “Our pets are our secret workout allies, and dogs put the ‘p’ in play,” Moore says. “If you’re working out with your dog, you have a tendency to have more of a fun workout.” And we humans are much more likely to stick with a workout that’s fun.
WHAT IT MEANS: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a dog of any kind that doesn’t enjoy a good walk. That’s good news for the human on the other end of the leash: Research shows that just a brisk one- to two-mile walk four or five times a week can greatly improve your cardiovascular health and even ward off depression. Not every breed is built to run a marathon (dogs with longer legs and leaner body physiques, like Labradors and golden retrievers and greyhounds, and dogs that don’t sport a heavy-boned body structure, generally can handle longer runs). But there are many ways you can get into a workout routine that’s good for both you and your pet.