7 Ways Walking a Dog Can Boost Your Health

Walking a dog for just 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk for heart disease, relieve stress and more — but only 40 percent of dog owners walk their dogs regularly. With such great health benefits, why wouldn't everyone walk their dogs?

Now is the perfect time to start. October 1-7 is National Walk Your Dog Week, so we’re sharing seven reasons walking is good for you — and your dog!

Celebrate National Walk Your Dog Week

Dog holding leash in mouth wants to go for a walk

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You'll Get More Physical Activity

The best motivator for walking regularly is needing to take a dog for a stroll. A 2009 University of Missouri study found that older adults who walked dogs had faster walking speeds and were less likely to make up excuses to skip going for a walk than the participants who walked with other adults. The same goes for dog owners who are pregnant or live in colder climates — they’re also less likely to skip walks if pets are depending on them.

Plus, dog walkers are two and a half times more likely to meet the daily federal recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day than non-dog walkers. So next time Fido whimpers at the door to go out, instead of just letting him out in your fenced yard, grab a leash and get moving.

Man petting dog on walk

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It’s a Stress Reliever

Simply being around pets has proven to reduce stress. Here’s why: Bonding with a pet may trigger the secretion of oxytocin (also known as the "trust" or "cuddle" hormone), which reduces the stress hormone cortisol. You know what also beats stress? Physical activity. So walking your dog is a double whammy against tension and anxiety.

Walking with dog offleash

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You’ll Lower Your Risk for Obesity

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, but research suggests that dog ownership could be part of the solution. According to a 2008 study published in Preventive Medicine, people who walk their dogs are significantly less likely to be obese than people who don’t own dogs or don't walk their dogs. If that doesn’t persuade you to be more active with your canine, then consider this: More than half of dogs are overweight and 25 percent of dogs are obese. If you don’t walk for your own health, at least do it for your dog.

Couple walking dog in neighborhood

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It’s Good for Your Social Life

As you stroll around the neighborhood with your pup, you’re bound to run into other people and pets. And that can have health benefits for both you and your dog. A recent study published in Health & Place found that adults ages 50 years or older who walk dogs in neighborhoods felt a greater sense of community than those who did not. And, of course, socialization is good for your pup, too. Puppies should meet as many people and dogs as possible so they become relaxed, confident and well-adjusted canines.

Dog sitting under desk

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You’ll Get Away From Your Desk

You’ve probably seen the headlines: Sitting is terrible for you and takes years off your life. To combat this lethal activity, one animal shelter in Australia came up with a clever idea: the Human Walking Program. The campaign gave sedentary office workers the opportunity to walk adoptable dogs during the workday. If your office is close to home, spend your lunch break walking your dog instead of eating at your desk.

Senior dog on a walk

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It’s Good for Your Brain

Want to boost your brainpower? Go for a walk. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory. Regular physical activity is also good for your dog’s mental health. Dogs who lack enough mental and physical stimulation will act out with inappropriate behaviors like excessive digging or chewing furniture. Going for daily walks helps keep their minds engaged.

Man walking two dogs

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Your Heart Will Thank You

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States — and owning a dog could help reduce your risk. After reviewing studies on the relationship between pet ownership and heart health, the American Heart Association issued a statement noting that the research suggests that owning pets decreases cardiovascular risk, although more research is needed to assess the various factors contributing to the benefit, including stress relief, physical activity and more. Whatever the case, it’s clear that walking a dog is more beneficial to your heart than not.

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