Saturday, 21 April 2012

Zen and the art of dog walking

The thing about dogs is that they don’t care what the weather is like: they still want a walk. So, come rain or shine, we dog walkers are pounding the paths with our canine friends...

 And it’s not such a bad thing... walking is an instant mood lifter, and especially outdoor walking. Fitness guru Joanna Hall says that a six week regime of 7,500 steps a day is enough to improve fitness by 25% while also shifting eight pounds in weight – and six inches off body measurements. But walking on a treadmill can feel relentless – and a view of sweaty bodies plugged into i-pods is rather dull. Step outside however and the mental health charity Mind says nine out of ten people report a lift to their self-esteem (compared to just 17% of indoor walkers).

But, for me, walking with a dog pays extra dividends. My spaniel’s happiness is so infectious I swear we’re both wagging our tails after about 20 minutes. We dog owners are supposed to benefit from lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and, if we are still unlucky enough to suffer a heart attack, experts say that we can expect a faster recovery than a non dog owner. A lot of this must be attributed to the fact that we also have a lower BMI than non dog walkers – and of course having to take a dog for a walk solves one of the main problems with any exercise routine: starting it.

Even when I had to wear waterproof trousers and a silly hat this week, I came back from my early morning walk feeling happy and refreshed. Did I then feel inspired to put my waterproofs back on to walk to the shops or gym? No – it’s just not the same without a dog.

. Tomorrow sees the start of Depression Awareness Week – the perfect excuse for a walk, preferably with a dog. For more information, click here.

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