When Fido gets a walk so do you.

When Fido gets a walk so do you.

Fit people have a dog.

Dogs need exercise. People need to exercise them. It’s a match made in heaven, even if on those wet/snowy days when it definitely doesn’t seem like it. With some 47 percent of U.S. households owning at least one dog and fewer than 20 percent of Americans getting the minimum recommended amount of aerobic and strengthening physical activity each week, it’s easy to see the opportunity here (especially when you consider that nearly one in four dogs and cats are estimated to be obese (there's even a National Pet Obesity Awareness Day).

A 2001 Australian study found that people who walked their dogs walked 18 minutes a week more, and dog owners who walked their dogs at least an hour weekly were more likely to meet minimal physical activity recommendations. And 2006 research at the Centers for Disease Control noted that of people who walked their dogs, 42 percent totaled at least 30 minutes of walks daily. (Unless you’re walking a greyhound around a racetrack you won’t get your heart rate up enough to meet recommendations for cardio activity, but every bit of activity does help, and you can try running or biking with your pooch, depending on his size and temperament.)

What’s more, owning a dog is good for your overall health: Deborah Wells of the Canine Behaviour Centre of Queens University in Northern Ireland reviewed studies about pets and health and found that having a dog not only leads to more exercise for owners, but also more social interaction, and both of these minimized stress and contributed to overall well-being. And while cat owners benefit, too, dog owners enjoyed improved health for much longer.


Photo by NicoPaix / Flickr