October 18, 2016 – An international study has found dog owners are fitter and are more likely to meet or exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) minimum weekly physical exercise guidelines compared to people without pooches.
The study, published in BMC Public Health and carried out by Hayley Christian from the University of Western Australia (UWA) in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, is the first international study of its kind to consistently examine the relationship between dog walking and people’s physical activity. More than 1,000 dog owners, from Perth, Australia and three US cities San Diego, Nashville and Portland, were surveyed in the Pet Connections study.
The research found that people who walked their dog achieved at least 30 minutes of physical activity on more days per week than non-dog walkers, helping them to meet the World Health Organisation recommendation of at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Across all study sites, dog walkers walked with their dog 5–6 times per week for a total of 93–109 minutes per week and achieved equal or greater than 30 minutes of physical activity on more days per week than non-dog owners.
The study provides further support for the potential for dog walking to increase levels of daily physical activity. Globally, physical inactivity is a significant health issue. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality behind high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose and is a significant factor in rising obesity rates.
Founder of Pooch & Mutt Guy Blaskey (main photo with his dog Pepper) admitted to Pet News Today that while he started the dog food company in 2008 with the aim of helping dogs lead happy healthy lives, he wasn’t fit back then at all. But now, partly motivated by his four-year-old Cockapoo, he is a keen runner and Pooch & Mutt is the food sponsor of CaniX, which organises competitive races for people and their dogs across the UK.
Guy has always loved animals and his personal journey to being fitter started in 2012 when he was talked into doing a half Marathon to support Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. A few months later, little puppy Pepper scampered into his life.
“She’s walked every day and sometimes we just walk and throw a ball with her. But I’ve got a running harness for her and I’ve done a couple of 10 km races with her,” said Guy. His top tip for dog owners who want to get fitter and know their dogs could also be healthier is to start with some interval training and gradually build from there.
For example, if you usually walk your dog for 30 minutes twice a day, you could jog for five minutes, walk for five to recover, jog for five etc gradually increasing jogging or running intervals and time and distance covered. It’s advisable if you and your dog are unfit to seek advice from your GP and vet first before embarking on a new exercise programme.
“I get annoyed when you see fat dogs who need exercise,” said Guy, “It’s not quite animal cruelty but it kind of is. Animals love to exercise. Look at a puppy, they love exercising. People think they are being kind to their dogs by giving them lots of treats and titbits but you are kind of taking away your dog’s enjoyment of life – and your own by the way. I think it’s a plague of modern society people don’t get outside, they don’t exercise and they don’t eat well.
Guy also recommends ensuring your dog eating food that correctly fuels and supports its physical needs – and no junk food.
Tracey and Mojo before…
Tracey Watt from the Isle of Man lost five stone – and dropped five dress sizes – getting fit with her Black Labrador Mojo, who also lost 3.5kg. As a result, the pair won the 2015 Kennel Club’s Get Fit With Fido’s Slimmer of the Year competition.
It wasn’t until Tracey started dog agility training with her new puppy, Mojo that she was shocked to realise she was unable to run for short periods of time with him without getting out of breath. Tracey decided enough was enough, and that she and Mojo could do with losing some weight and getting into shape.
Since then, Tracey has gone from 16 stone 8 pounds and a size 22, to 11 stone 7.5 pounds and a size 12 and 6-year-old Mojo has gone from 28kg to 24.5kg.
Tracey first met Mojo in 2010 when her beloved Border Collie, 15-year-old Ben, lost the use of his hind legs. She knew Ben didn’t have long to live, which devastated her and she couldn’t face getting another Border Collie as it would remind her of Ben. When they went to visit a litter of Black Labradors, Mojo was the only boy and he automatically gravitated to Tracey. They have been inseparable ever since.
“I was delighted to have been chosen as the Get Fit With Fido Slimmer of the Year,” said Tracey. “I hope that my story will inspire others to take that first step. Without Mojo there’s no way I would have lost the weight – he was my inspiration whenever I felt like giving up. I wanted both of us to be able to compete in agility when happy and healthy, and now we’ve finally achieved that goal it feels fantastic.
“Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and think who is that? It has given me so much more confidence. I would like to try and lose a little more, but for me now it’s about being comfortable with my weight and keeping fit to keep up with Mojo and our new addition Vinny.”
Tracey, who recently had knee surgery so has been on a mandatory rest, told Pet News Today she can’t wait to start exercising with her dogs again.
“I’ve missed it. I’ve missed how it makes me feel it – definitely the endorphins it releases.”
She said for those who want to get themselves and their dog fitter “start off with a realistic goal. Increase your walk by 5-10 minutes a day. You’ll be amazed how you can build on that over the course of a month”.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: “We launched our Get Fit With Fido campaign to help tackle the growing obesity problem in both dogs and humans. It’s important for both dogs and their owners to keep fit and healthy and there are many fun and interesting ways of doing this, either through taking part in canine activities such as agility or by following our Get Fit With Fido initiative for tips and advice on starting your weight loss journey.”
To enter the Kennel Club’s Slimmer of the Year competition, please click here. Entries for the 2016 competition will end on 18 December 2016, with the winner announced in January 2017.
For information on Pooch & Mutt dog food click here.