Dogs are a better investment than health club memberships for those who want to lose weight, says a study. Pet owners apparently cover more miles in a year on ‘walkies’ than the average gym junkie. Those who walk their dogs also have the benefit of fresh air, will recover more quickly from their exercise and are less stressed.
More than 1,500 dog owners and gym members were surveyed for the study commissioned by a pet brand. The average pet owner walked 676 miles a year, or the equivalent of London to Bangkok over the animal’s lifetime. In contrast, gymgoers clocked up an average of 468 miles on various exercise bikes, running machines and other equipment. Part of the reason could be the commitment associated with a pet.
While 92 per cent of dog owners stick to an exercise routine long term, only 52 per cent of gym members are still attending two or three months after buying their pass. Psychologist Dr David Lewis monitored one group of middle-aged dog owners and another group of gym members of the same age, who didn’t own dogs.
He examined them before and after a series of exercises to monitor their fitness levels. Both groups were asked to do eight minutes on a stepping machine and then tested 60 seconds after the end of the exercise.
The heart rate of dog walkers had returned to the normal resting rate but the heart rate of gym members was still 29 beats a minute above the normal level. This is because dog walking is a heart-strengthening aerobic exercise while the average gym routine is only made up of around 48 per cent of aerobic exercise. Higher-than-average stress levels affected 52 per cent of gym members but only 35 per cent of dog walkers. Pet owners were also found to have lower blood pressure.
The study also found fitness levels differed depending on the breed of dog. But this was not as simple as smaller dogs needing less exercise. Owners of basset hounds, shihtzus, dachshunds, corgis and, surprisingly, whippets tend to do little more than stroll with their animals. Boxers, dobermans, German shepherds, retrievers and the much smaller breed of jack russells usually demand more brisk walks.
And the real power walkers in the canine world are dalmatians, border collies, setters and springer spaniels. Dr Lewis said: "Given the financial cost of gym membership, Fido wins hands down as your personal well-being trainer.
Not only does walking a dog mean you have to go out at least once a day—rain or shine, you become far less stressed merely by stroking a pet.”