By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 04/03/2018, edited: 08/11/2021
Having trouble getting motivated to hop on that treadmill or go for a long walks around the neighborhood for your daily dose of exercise? Then you might want to consider an alternate method: walking dogs for exercise. Dogs are actually the best personal trainers around! They are always ready to go, tirelessly hard-working, and what could be a better motivator than that sad, dopey face when they really want to go for a walk?
But how much can walking a dog really help you exercise?
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that only 16 percent of Americans aged 15 and older engaged in any type of exercise a day on average. However a Michigan State University study reported that in dog walkers, 60 percent met the criteria for moderate or vigorous exercise. It also found that those who walked dogs averaged about 30 minutes of exercise per day, which is the general recommendation in order to maintain good health, but can also help with weight loss for both you and the dog.
While it ultimately depends on the pace and general temperament of the dog, a person of average weight can burn around 205 calories per hour of walking a dog at a leisurely pace of 2-mph, including potty and idle sniffing breaks. However, if the dog likes to walk fast and pull their leash, dog walkers actually burn more calories trying to keep up with them and pulling back on their leash trying to keep them in line.
While 205 calories may sound like a negligible amount, it adds up over time. If you walk a dog for an hour each day of the week, you have burned 1,435 calories during that time you could have spent sitting behind a desk and not burning anything. It only takes 3,500 burned calories to lose one pound, so after a week, dog walkers are nearly half way there.
However, it is also worth noting that heavier people will be burning more calories and there are ways to increase the calories burned such as walking uphill or moving at a faster pace. Unfortunately, you have to make sure that this pace and the length of the walk is also appropriate for the breed of dog. Active breeds like Labradors, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers will always be up for long, fast walks until they get to an advanced age.
However, less active breeds like Pugs with their squished noses that makes it harder to breathe, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds with their short legs, and dogs with a lazy temperament will not want to go for overly long or fast walks. They will get tired eventually, start to slow down, and even whine when they want to go home. With these dogs, it is best to do shorter walks at more intervals instead of one long walk per day.
Even if you aren’t looking to lose a few pounds walking dogs, both you and the dog will reap the benefits of daily walks. Dog owners often tend to overlook a few extra pounds that their dog has put on because who doesn’t love a squishy tummy to pet? However, even a couple extra pounds can take a few years off a dog’s already short life. Yet, dog walks don’t just promote a healthier life for both parties; they can actually help your dog work through some of their more annoying mental issues as well.
For those already balancing a regular desk job, squeezing in time for a little healthy dog walking can be challenging. After all, if we had the time for do long, leisurely dog walks for a living, we would probably be doing them. However, while an hour of dog walking is great exercise, it doesn’t need to be done all at once.
For those that work part-time jobs, taking up extra dog walking during the day is not only a great way to earn some extra cash and get some exercise, but there is a demand for it. Yet, those working full-time and still want to skip the gym in lieu for a little exercise via dog walking have options. Some dog owners don’t have the energy to go for a walk after work, while you do. Others are so busy in the mornings, that early dog walks before your own job can be a great way to get the day started with a bang.
When starting dog walking as a hobby, it is best to set a schedule for yourself. Dogs crave routines, and so do people. Nothing is a better motivator than realizing how sad that dog will be when you don’t show up to walk them. The treadmill doesn’t care if you show up, but with a dog, you essentially ruin their day.
From health benefits and weight loss, to gaining a little cash instead of losing it on a gym membership you will never use, dog walking is an awesome way to burn off calories. For those with an active lifestyle and enjoy working with animals, why not consider working for Wag! and pick up dog walking commitments at your leisure so you can get in as much dog walking and exercise as you desire.
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