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A Dog is a Healthy Man's Best Friend

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"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself." - Josh Billings, American humorist

Beware cat fans, this blog ignores them… much like cats often ignore people. Cats get enough attention on the internet. Cat videos dominate the YouTube most-played list and a cat recently won the Hero Dog award (yes, a dog award was given to a cat). Anyway, this article isn’t about hating on cats, it’s about celebrating dogs.

I grew up with a great dog, Buki, a cockapoo. My older brother Josh and his family have enjoyed the company of their canine, Rico, for nearly two years. Over the past month, my twin brother Ben has taken on the responsibility of fostering a dachshund named Roxie. Through these experiences, I came to learn first-hand that dogs are wonderful companions. They are loyal. They are comforting. They show love for their owners.

It turns out, that dogs also make us healthier people. Those who own dogs have lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, and a lower chance of getting heart attacks. There are some important ways that dogs help us live more active and happy lives.

Walking Our Dogs Requires Walking.
Just like babies need to have their diapers changed, dogs must be walked. Instead of waking up at random times during the night to change a dirty diaper, dog owners create routines for getting dressed and going outside morning and evening. Unlike getting up to work out, there’s rarely a valid excuse for not taking a dog out. You can’t say, “I’m too tired,” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.” That won’t work. Unless you want to clean up a big mess the next day! Dr. Matthew Reeves, associate professor of Michigan State, says, “There is exercise that gets done in [the] household that wouldn’t get done otherwise. Our dogs demand that you take them out at 10 o’clock at night, when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. They’re not going to leave you alone until they get their walk in.”

We are Motivated to Exercise by Our Dogs.
I’ve written about the importance of motivation for working out. The act of initiating exercise is often the most challenging step towards having an active lifestyle. Personal trainers serve as motivators, both by inspiring and supporting their clients, and by holding their clients accountable. Often, we do not have enough internal motivation to get to the gym, go for a run, or workout at home. Dogs play an important role in motivating their owners when it comes to exercising. Dog owners are more active than those who don’t have dogs. A Michigan State University study found that people who walk their dogs are more likely to take part in physical activities, such as playing sports and gardening. Dog walkers exercise 30 minutes a week more than those without dogs.

Dogs Lower Our Stress & Improve Our Moods.
Mental health is an important part of achieving our peak athletic performance. Spending time with a dog reduces cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, and helps produce serotonin, a chemical associated with well-being. It’s no surprise, therefore, that dogs are often prescribed to those who are managing depression.

Dogs are Great Exercise Buddies.
Dogs – unlike cats – are usually very active. They play fetch, run around the house, and aggressively pursue bones (or any type of food for that matter). People enjoy exercising with their dogs. A yoga program called “doga” has been developed in which people participate in yoga classes with their dogs. Many people enjoy exercising with their dog more than exercising with a human. A University of Missouri study followed 54 older adults at an assisted-living home for a 12-week period. Some participants walked with a friend, while others took a bus to an animal shelter where they were assigned a dog to walk. The result: a 24 percent increase in walking speed for those assigned to a random dog compared with the human companion walkers.

We'd love to hear from you. How does your dog help you stay fit? Comment below or on our Facebook page at facebook.com/flytefitness, or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg
Co-Founder & CEO
Flyte Fitness

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