In case you hadn’t heard the Good News: dogs can help keep you healthier.
Professor Jones of Norwich Medical School said, “We were amazed to find that dog walkers [owners] were on average more physically active and spent less time sitting on the coldest, wettest, and darkest days than non-dog owners were on long, sunny, and warm summer days. (Wu 2017).”
Additionally, dog owners are 400% more likely to meet physical activity guidelines (Westgarth 2019).
That’s a great start, right?! If you have a dog, you’re on the right track!
The Bad News: according to the largest pet insurer in the US, pet obesity continues to rise (Nationwide, 2019). So does human obesity (Ward, 2019).
So in 2020, consider the following to help keep eachother healthy and wag off that weight!
1. Find ways to be active together.
Walking is a great, low-impact way to introduce exercise into both of your lives. It is great for both mental health (Miller, 2016) and good for physical health (Hu, 1999)! Down the block, around the block, and building up to running (ok, fast walking for me right now) all the way down Sand Creek Path and back!
To increase your exercise or if your energy levels aren’t the same: consider the dog park with your furry pal. Watch your friend and play with them. Do you have more energy than Fido? I’ve seen pet owners taking fast or slow laps around the perimeter of the dog park.
2. Food doesn’t equal love.
When my motivation slips or I’m having a bad day, I head to the fridge. If you’re like me, take a step back and remind yourself we want to be healthier more than we want to comfort ourselves with a treat.
On other side of the same coin: I remind myself that overfeeding my dog doesn’t equate to love! It is my responsibility to feed myself AND my doggo the healthy amount and kinds of food, not what I think will make us feel good or stop that awful pout he does as if he’s never been fed in his entire life.
Dogs can be very convincing and it’s up to us to stay strong against this cuteness! 👇
3. Seek outside support.
For you, this could mean working with your doctor and finding gym buddies. People are much more likely to stay healthy with some kind of external support.
For your dog, talk to your veterinarian and take what they say to heart: they really just want your doggo to be healthy.
While you’re dog can’t join a gym, you can do one thing: hire a dog walker or dog park field trip buddy to get them more activity than you can give them!
4. Remind yourself that it’s good for both of you.
You want to be here for your dog, right? And you want them here for you? Obesity can contribute to diabetes, other chronic diseases, joint problems… for both humans (Mokdad, 2003) and canines (Nationwide, 2019). These can shorten the time you have with your furkid.
Dogs contribute to our health and happiness. They’re fun and loveable, then they keep us company and encourage us to be and do better when nothing else can. Unfortunately their health issues related to weight and physical activity can reflect the same problems humans are experiencing. It is up to us to be and do better for both of us.
Hu FB, Sigal RJ, Rich-Edwards JW, et al. Walking Compared With Vigorous Physical Activity and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women: A Prospective Study. JAMA. 1999;282(15):1433–1439. doi:10.1001/jama.282.15.1433
Miller, J. C., & Krizan, Z. (2016). Walking facilitates positive affect (even when expecting the opposite). Emotion, 16(5), 775–785. doi: 10.1037/a0040270
Mokdad, A. H., Ford, E. S., Bowman, B. A., Dietz, W. H., Vinicor, F., Bales, V. S., & Marks, J. S. (2003). Prevalence of Obesity, Diabetes, and Obesity-Related Health Risk Factors, 2001. JAMA, 289(1), 76. doi: 10.1001/jama.289.1.76
Nationwide. (2019, January 02). Pet obesity on the rise for eighth consecutive year [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.nationwide.com/personal/about-us/newsroom/press-release?title=010219-pet-obesity
Ward, Z. J., Bleich, S. N., Cradock, A. L., Barrett, J. L., Giles, C. M., Flax, C., … Gortmaker, S. L. (2019). Projected U.S. State-Level Prevalence of Adult Obesity and Severe Obesity. New England Journal of Medicine, 381(25), 2440–2450. doi: 10.1056/nejmsa1909301
Westgarth, C., Christley, R.M., Jewell, C. et al. Dog owners are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people without a dog: An investigation of the association between dog ownership and physical activity levels in a UK community. Sci Rep 9, 5704 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-41254-6
Wu Y, Luben R, Jones A. Dog ownership supports the maintenance of physical activity during poor weather in older English adults: cross-sectional results from the EPIC Norfolk cohort. J Epidemiol Community Health 2017;71:905-911.