Exploring the Hidden Health Perks of Walking Your Dog – P.L.A.Y.

If you’re a dog owner, a daily walk with your four-legged friend might feel like nothing more than a simple, everyday routine. Chances are, it’s something both you and your pooch look forward to. But, that simple walk could be doing more for your health than you realize. Once you do understand the hidden health perks of walking your dog, you might be inclined to do it more frequently — and you’ll likely have an excited pup as well!

Most people understand that exercise, in general, is good for them. But, there’s a common misconception that you need to go to the gym or run five miles to see any real benefits.

In reality, daily walking has immense health benefits, and when you bring your dog along, you can enjoy even more perks.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of those hidden benefits, and what you can do to make daily walking with your dog a habit you’ll both enjoy.

How Walking Benefits Your Well-Being

Regular walks with your dog can naturally boost your physical and mental health. Some of the most commonly-known physical health benefits include:

  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Stronger bones
  • Better endurance

Daily walking can also help to improve your balance while reducing your risk of diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease, breast cancer, and diabetes. It’s also a simple and effective way to manage your weight without having to go to a gym every day.

What might surprise you is that daily walks can also benefit your mental and emotional health. Regular physical activity can reduce stress, boost energy levels, and give you an overall sense of happiness. Research has shown that simply owning a dog can help with issues like anxiety, depression, and even dementia. Adding in the benefits of walking each day can boost your mental wellness even more.

Being outside will also boost your well-being. Nature is a fantastic healer, known for reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing energy levels. You might gain a new sense of appreciation for the world around you that you wouldn’t get without spending time outside each day.

In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, going on regular walks with your dog can help you establish a healthy routine. According to Northwestern Medicine, effective routines improve mental health and lead to less anxiety. They also help you sleep better and improve energy levels. Plus, if you start one healthy habit, like walking every day, you might be more inclined to form other healthy habits, including eating better, prioritizing sleep, and regularly visiting your doctor.

The Social Aspect

Dogs can be great icebreakers, especially if you tend to have trouble meeting people or being very social. If you’re new to your community, taking your dog on a walk can be a fantastic way to meet like-minded people, especially if you head to a dog park or other public areas where pet owners might spend their time.

Dogs are social creatures, and they can encourage you to be, too. What does that have to do with your health? Loneliness and isolation can lead to depression and anxiety, and can even have a negative impact on your physical health.

It’s not always easy to meet new people, especially if you live in a small town. By putting yourself out there with your four-legged friend, you’re more likely to interact with people who have similar interests and avoid the negative effects of loneliness.

The Benefits for Your Dog

If you’re a pet owner, you probably consider your dog to be an important part of the family. You want to keep them as healthy and happy as possible, and a daily walk can help with that. It’s probably no secret that your furry friend enjoys going on walks. They might wag their tail, spin in a circle, or head straight to the door when you even say the word, or when you pull out their leash.

But, walks are more than just fun for dogs — they’re great for their health! Dogs need exercise just as much as people, and they can enjoy many of the same physical perks from regular activity.

Some of the biggest health benefits of walking for dogs include:

  • Greater mobility
  • Stronger muscles and bones
  • Better digestive and urinary health
  • Improved cardiovascular health

In some ways, walking can also improve your dog’s mental health. No dog wants to be bored, and some breeds have a hard time sitting still for too long. Regular walks can help to give them something constructive to do. They’ll look forward to the sights, smells, and sounds, as well as spending time with you. Plus, as the old saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog. If you’re able to tucker your pup out on a walk, they’re less likely to be destructive at home.

Becoming a Frequent Walker

Ideally, you’ll be able to get into a routine that allows you to walk your dog every day. It’s something you both can look forward to, and you’ll start enjoying the benefits right away.

But, it can sometimes be easier said than done to develop new habits. Thankfully, there are some tips you can use to get started, no matter where you live or what your schedule looks like.

First, if you don’t live in a neighborhood that’s conducive to dog walking, consider taking your dog to a nearby park or walking trail. If you’re worried about pet hair in the car, keep them confined to one area in your vehicle so it doesn’t get all over, and invest in a pet hair removal brush for quick and easy clean-up.

If you do live in an area where you’re comfortable walking, getting started is easier than you might think. The most important thing is to give yourself enough time for a walk. Different breeds require different amounts of exercise, but the last thing you want is to feel like you have to rush through your daily walk. That won’t reduce stress — it will add to it. That might mean waking up a bit earlier in the morning or changing your evening routine to watch less TV. If you’re going to make daily walking with your four-legged friend a habit, you have to make time for it.

If you have a puppy or a dog who isn’t used to going on longer walks, it might take some getting used to — for both of you! Reward your dog while you’re on the walk by giving them verbal praise. Use a shorter leash as you’re getting started and keep them close to you, taking a slight lead ahead of them. This will establish you as their pack leader, and they’ll be less likely to pull and tug or try to chase after a random squirrel or person while you’re heading down the block. 

There are many hidden health perks of walking with your dog that you’re likely to discover once you start making it a part of your daily routine. Not only will you enjoy mental and physical benefits, but simply spending that bonding time with your furry friend can make you both feel a greater sense of connection and closeness.

Your walking routine will end up being something you look forward to each day, so pick up the leash and get out there.

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