The Surprising Health Benefits Of Walking Your Dogs

  • 03/04/2018
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Physical activity is vital for human health. Despite the wealth of published research confirming this fact, modern life in Ireland has become increasingly sedentary. Irish men lay claim to the dubious honour of having the highest body mass index in Europe, while Irish women rank third in the continent. The health benefits of a daily walk (of just 30 minutes) have been documented in numerous studies. These include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, improving cognition and preventing dementia and falls in the elderly, and an array of social and mental health benefits for people of all ages. A walk with your four-pawed friend can prevent anxiety and depression and reduce stress levels. Additionally, social benefits afforded by dog walking include fostering social interaction and contributing to a healthier social and physical environment.

Katie from civilized health agreed "walking your dog is not only great for your dog's health and mind but also your own, many people need a reason to get out and get fresh air and your dog is the biggest one."

Barriers to Dog Walking

Around 61% of all households in Ireland have a dog or cat. Nonetheless, research indicates that dogs are walked infrequently. The culprits are twofold: firstly – a lack of time, and secondly – excessive dependence on phones/tablets/the television. In fact, the first reason is little more than an excuse to indulge in the second and foster our all-too-laidback lifestyle. The truth is that nearly everyone has at least half an hour a day to spare. Walking is easy, free, adaptable to all ages, flexible in terms of timing, and confidence-building. We also know that our dogs mentally and physically need to be outside, enjoying the different sights and smells and obtaining the exercise they need to lead a long and healthy life. To do the right thing by ourselves and our dog, a daily walk is vital; what greater motivation could there be than our beloved pet’s health?

Stretching Exercises for You and Your Dog

If you are new to exercising and you plan on brisk walking or even jogging alongside your dog, make sure to stretch before. Everyday stretches such as the thigh, hamstring and shoulder stretches take just five minutes and will help prevent injury. Also, pay attention to your hip flexors; these muscles (which stabilise the lower body and help prevent falls and slips) are not visible but are required for a host of movements, including bending forward at the waist. If your hip flexors are too tight or stiff, lower back and hip pain will ensue. One easy hip flexor exercise involves kneeling on one knee with your other knee and foot before you on the ground. To complete the stretch, tilt your pelvis forward for various seconds, feeling a delicious ‘burn’ in your hips and hamstrings.

The action isn’t over yet! Now it’s time for your pooch. The older your dog is, the more likely they are to suffer from muscle tears or injuries when exercising. To give their hip flexors a good stretch, gently and slowly move one back leg straight out behind your dog’s body, making sure to support the rest of their body so they don’t fall down. Do this with both back legs, then do the same with the front legs (stretching each leg slightly forward with a very gentle movement) to stretch their shoulder flexors. To stretch their chest, while your dog is lying on his back, grasp both front legs near the wrists and gently stretch them towards the sides. Finally, give your dog a chest massage… he will be ever so grateful, but even more so as soon as the door opens and he inhales the beautiful fresh air!

When it comes to walking your furry friend, it is definitely a win-win situation. Both you and your dog can obtain major health benefits from just half an hour daily in the Great Outdoors. Stop making excuses for depriving him of his greatest joy - a happy stroll in a park or natural landscape where he has all the opportunity to sniff around, meet other dogs and boost his heart health and circulation.

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