Any dog owner can tell you that walking the dog can sometimes feel like a chore, especially if you live somewhere with very cold, hot, or rainy weather. But did you know that giving your dog a daily walk of at least 15 minutes can actually have a whole host of unexpected benefits, over and above a happy, exercised pup?
1. Bonding With Your Pet
We all love our pets, and dogs have earned their moniker as man’s best friend for good reason. But it can be easy to get frustrated with a dog that’s acting out because it’s feeling bored or cooped up. Taking regular walks with your dog will help you to bond with your dog in new ways as you see it react to new places and situations. If you’re lucky, it might also stop Fido from chewing up the sofa!
2. Getting to Know Your Neighbors and Other Dog-Walkers
If you’re feeling lonely or having trouble meeting new people, you have to try dog-walking. Dogs have very different etiquette when it comes to making new friends (and that’s probably a good thing, as we’d look a bit odd sniffing each other’s butts!) Dog owners love to compare notes and tell stories about their pets, which can be a great ice-breaker. If you take a similar route each day, you’re likely to start seeing the same group of people regularly, which can make for new friendships for you—and your dog!
3. Learning More About Your Local Area
How many of us have spent years living in a certain neighborhood without really getting to know it properly? Sometimes, it can feel easier to hop in the car and drive someplace you already know rather than walking around your neighborhood to discover new sights. However, walking your dog every day can be a great excuse to get out and see a little more of your local area: just taking a slightly different route each day can turn up all sorts of hidden local gems! And who knows, maybe you could check them out with your new dog-walking pals?
4. Strengthening Bones and Muscles
Building up your muscles doesn’t necessarily involve hitting the gym and lifting weights: something as simple as a 15-minute daily walk can help to do the same thing. While you might not end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, your muscles will be getting stronger from day one. After all, we engage around 200 muscles just to take a step forward! As your muscles move around and put pressure on your bones, this, in turn, helps to strengthen your bones and ligaments, which can be very important as we grow older.
5. Aiding Weight Loss or Helping to Maintain a Healthy Weight
Losing weight can be tough: there’s a reason why the weight-loss industry is worth literally billions of dollars. And even if you manage to lose the weight, keeping it off can be just as difficult, especially for those of us with a busy lifestyle.
Although we all know that exercise is important to weight loss, it needn’t involve forking out for an expensive gym membership or investing in a new workout wardrobe. A brisk walk of just 15 minutes burns around 60 calories, which increases with the length or the speed of the walking.
6. Improving Heart Health
There’s a reason why doctors so frequently recommend that we get more exercise: it’s one of the best ways to stave of a whole host of conditions and improve heart health. Walking can help to lower blood pressure, as well as reducing the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and type 2 diabetes. Just 15 minutes of brisk walking a day can us to see these amazing health benefits—and what’s more, your dog will also be getting fitter and healthier!
7. Making Your Happier and Improving Your Mood
If you’re in a bad mood, or if you live with emotional conditions like depression or anxiety which negatively affect your state of mind, going out for a walk might feel like the last thing you want to do: you’d probably rather just curl up in bed instead.
However, it’s been proven time and time again that exercise, including walking, can have a hugely beneficial influence on our mood. Not only do fresh air and a change of scenery help, but when we exercise, our bodies actually release endorphins, one of the hormones that help us to feel happy. Although you could get this benefit from walking without your dog, what better motivation could you wish for to get up and moving than that eager little face and wagging tail?
For some people, their dogs help their mood in more ways than just helping them to get more exercise. Emotional support animals (learn more here) are prescribed by licensed mental health professionals to help people with mental conditions like anxiety, depression, phobias and more to cope with the symptoms of their illness. If your dog helps you in this way and you think you could qualify for an emotional support animal, talk to a licensed mental health professional.
8. Helping You to Get Better Coordination and Balance
As we get older, our coordination and balance can deteriorate, especially if we’re not getting regular exercise. The good news is that walking is a great way to improve both of these things! If you walk just 15 minutes a day, you’re likely to see some improvement in a matter of weeks.
9. Giving You a Sense of Achievement
It can be hard to get motivated sometimes, especially if you’re living with a mental illness. But something as simple as getting into a good routine of walking your dog every day can give a real sense of achievement, which in turn can help with motivation.
Why not try taking it up a level and setting yourself small targets to meet each week on your daily walks? They could be health related, like tracking your steps or heart rate, or they could involve saying “hi” to a certain number of fellow dog-walkers, or even picking up a certain amount of trash on your regular route. Then let the happy glow you get from meeting these goals give you the motivation boost you need to get your other tasks for the day completed!