I have a routine. Every morning I wake up, make a cup of coffee, have a few sips, and grab the dog’s leash. I utter a few key words (my dog loses it if I ask him if he’s “ready”) and we’re off for a morning walk. Our morning walk together is a favorite routine. He gets to poop in his favorite spot and the crisp morning air clears the cobwebs in my mind.
But a new study conducted in the United Kingdom has prompted me to ask myself a question: would I walk every morning if I didn’t have a dog?
According to this research, it’s pretty likely I’d be sleeping in or looking at my phone instead.
According to researchers, dog owners are about four times as likely to exercise the recommended amount each week than people who don’t have a dog, and about two-thirds of dog owners meet the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise recommended each week.
Dog ownership was also found to increase the likelihood of a person jogging and running.
700 people were studied by researchers at the University of Liverpool. Adults and children alike were part of the research. 87% of people with dogs exercised for at least 150 minutes per week, which is the amount of exercise recommended by the NHS. Only about 63% of participants without a dog hit that minimum.
Our findings provide support for the role of pet dogs in promoting and maintaining positive health behaviours such as walking,” the researchers said of their study. “Without dogs, it is likely that population physical activity levels would be much lower.”
Is walking really that important for our health?
Walking tends to be a pretty leisurely, relaxed activity. Is it really enough just to walk? There are definitely some benefits of walking.
You burn calories.
Depending on how long you walk and at what speed, you can easily burn 100 calories per mile that you walk. Calories burned means weight lost!
Walking strengthens your heart.
One study points to walking as an effective way to make your heart stronger. People who walk 30 minutes per day 5 days per week reduced their chance of coronary heart disease by about 20%.
Walking boosts your immune system.
This is one of my favorite things walking does. I absolutely hate getting sick, and walking may be a silver bullet to staying healthy. One study, which followed 1,000 adults through a flu season, found those who walked 30-45 minutes per day at a moderate pace saw a 43% reduction in the number of sick days taken as well as fewer upper respiratory tract infections.
“Our pet dogs play an important role in keeping us healthy and this should be recognised and facilitated,” the researchers said.
“However, this should not be interpreted to as a recommendation for people to go out and get a dog purely for their own benefit. Dog welfare needs must be carefully considered.”
Dogs require attention, love, and care. Before you rush out to get a dog, consider how much time you spend at home, how active you are, and if you’re financially ready.