Many studies have proven that taking your dog for a walk is not only good physical exercise but it also has strong therapeutic benefits as well, helping to support our mental health and boost our overall wellbeing.
According to reports published by Psychology Today, there are at least six main psychological benefits to be gained from taking your canine companion out for a regular stroll, which are:
- Giving us a reason to exercise
Some people just can’t get motivated to get up and walk for themselves but knowing that they have to it for the sake of their dog can be a big motivator. Knowing that your dog needs to get out of the house every day, no matter what the weather conditions, can be a real motivator helping you to also get your exercise at the same time when you would have otherwise made an excuse.
- Helping to reduce stress
Spending time with your pet is known to help reduce stress levels by taking your mind off your worries and allowing you to put someone else’s needs before your own. This impact from spending time with your pet, combined with the physical exercise of walking, both create a great stress reliever. We talked to our friends from Time for Paws, an online source of pet supplies, and they shared with us how their office program of allowing their employees to bring their dogs to the office and walk them after hours has greatly improved stress management among their team. Maybe you can do the same for your office?
- Healthier circulation
Being less stressed and taking part in regular physical exercise can both have real benefits for the body, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and improving our overall circulation levels.
- Spending time outside
Walking your pet inevitably involves heading out to parks or woodland areas so your dog can run free and just spending time out in nature can help create an improved sense of wellbeing as well as helping us to connect with the world around us.
- Increase social activity
Having a dog gives you a constant companion which can help you to fight feelings of loneliness and taking it out for a walk inevitably involves your dog making friends with other dogs giving you the opportunity to chat with fellow dog lovers and experience human interaction. It’s a great way to meet your neighbors out in the community, particularly as dog owners will regularly be walking in the same areas largely.
- Achieving the minimum physical activity levels
According to the experts at Bupa, just by walking your dog at least four times every week you will be achieving the minimum recommended amount of physical activity for overall fitness so walking your dog will keep you fit without having to make a special effort.
- Walking further than non-dog walkers
People who own dogs have been shown to walk for longer than people who are just out for a walk without a pet, meaning you are likely to get more exercise and be more active as a dog walker than if you are not a pet owner.
- It can help with mindfulness
Walking your dog allows you to take your mind off all your troubles and relax your thinking. You can focus on the nature around you, notice the scenery and be at one with the here and now. You can walk your dog while listening to music or a meditation podcast to bring yourself into the present and really relax and enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.
- Walking your dog is a fun activity
While making yourself exercise can become a chore, choosing to walk your dog because the dog is relying on you and is your companion, can make the walk more fun and help you become more engaged with the activity. Rather than forcing yourself to go to the gym, making yourself keep the commitment to spend time with your dog is a much more enjoyable activity.
- You can choose to walk fast to increase the exercise benefits
Your dog has lots of energy so you can take advantage of this by making sure you are walking fast enough to make a difference to your own fitness levels. Make sure you are managing to increase your heart rate without becoming out of breath.
- You can make the terrain more challenging
As you get fitter while walking your dog, you can change the terrain to help with your own fitness goals by adding in some hill walks and increasing and decreasing speed. You can make your dog walk into as much of a workout or as leisurely a stroll as you need.
- You can explore new places
With a dog as an excuse, you can get out of the house and explore new places by driving out to new countryside areas or beaches and going for a walk with your dog – it’s much more motivating than just walking by yourself and can introduce you to some new favorite spots.
- You can enjoy rare thinking time
With our busy schedules and hectic connected lives, it can be difficult just to have the space needed to think through problems and issues which are going on in your life. However, walking provides great space to think and can lead to your brain coming up with unexpected and creative solutions all by itself.
- Incorporate your own fitness goals
If you are training to get fit or taking part in a fitness challenge then incorporate your dog walking into your routine by wearing a pedometer to see how many steps you are reaching on a daily basis – it will give you a sense of achievement and might encourage you to walk further.
Having a dog as a pet provides a number of great advantages including companionship, an extra member of the family and a fun friend who is always there – but walking your dog daily can also provide amazing health benefits and not just as a result of increased exercise levels.
Walking your dog can help reduce stress and anxiety, provide quiet thinking time and help to increase social interaction to reduce loneliness so while you might just think of it as stretching your dog’s legs, there is much more at stake.