I have discussed in past articles that the No. 1 disease in dogs and cats is gum disease, followed closely by obesity. Likewise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two out of every three adults are overweight or obese. Compare that to a 2012 nationwide survey stating more than half of our country's dogs and cats are overweight.
Looks to me like there is a correlating trend between pets and their people. While we were busy packing on the extra pounds, health officials witnessed a surge in weight-related diseases, such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and more in both people and pets. The good news is this slide into sickness can be reversed with some simple lifestyle changes. Here are five reasons why you and your pet are perfect workout buddies.
1. Equal energy burn
You will rarely encounter a dog that didn't jump for joy at the prospect of going for a walk. One of the reasons dogs and humans are a perfect pair when it comes to exercise is the fact that we burn close to the same amount of energy per pound when walking or running. Keep in mind that both you and your dog need to use 3,500 calories to lose one pound of weight. This is why weight loss for people and dogs is about 60 percent diet and only 40 percent exercise. It's really hard to walk your way to weight loss. You need to exercise for the innumerable positive health benefits it provides to both you and your pet.
2. Reduce disease risk
Regular aerobic exercise can help keep you and your pet healthier. Studies over the past 20 years have shown that maintaining lean body mass and aerobic fitness reduces the risk of developing diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, respiratory conditions and many forms of cancer. Make it you goal to walk your dog (and yourself) at least 30 minutes each day to reduce the chances of developing these conditions.
3. Similar speed
Most dogs seem to enjoy walking at about a 15- to 17-minute per mile pace. That's a brisk walk for you — arguably one of the best walking speeds to help you stay healthy. Take advantage of your natural dog's speedometer and encourage them to move along at a solid speed instead of stopping to smell the flowers every few steps. Hint: if your dog is pausing frequently, you're probably going too slowly. If your dog continues to refuse to pick up the pace, it may need a little additional leash-walking training.
4. Social creatures
It's really easy to go into lockdown mode in today's life. You can order take-out, have practically anything delivered to your doorstep and many people earn a living in their living rooms. Walking your pet forces you to break out of this cocooning mentality and interact with others. The social benefits of walking your dog twice a day can't be underestimated. You'll see friends, catch up on neighborhood news and be forced to see the world outside your windows. Dogs are just as needy — maybe more so — when it comes to staying connected to the outside world. Many of the behavior cases I see dramatically improve after prescribing daily open-air excursions.
5. Man's best motivation
There's something deeply rewarding about spending time outdoors with your dog (or even leash-trained cats). Maybe it's rooted in our genes; maybe it's our long history together. Whatever the reason, the connection between sweaty people and panting pets is profound. Your dog longingly looks at you and wants one thing — you. Sure, you can redirect that desire by giving your pooch a goodie, but what they really, really want is your interaction, your play, your time. I think one of the greatest reasons pets are our best workout buddies is the fact that it's our responsibility as pet parents. Stop taking the easy way out — treats and couch time — and start lacing up those walking shoes. You'll feel better and your pet will love you for spending quality time with them.