Your Fit Buddy Has Four Legs
By: Christy Campbell
A 2017 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that walking just three hours per week increased weight loss and decreased body fat percentage for those already doing a nutrition program. The simple truth is that small steps add up… pun intended. Walking short distances will eventually add up to miles, that lead to a healthier body and pounds lost. But if it were that easy, everyone would do it! Implementation is always the hard part.
Committing to daily exercise can be tough, especially when it is new. Having an accountability partner or a community of support can substantially improve your odds of success. But finding one can be tricky. You could hire a personal trainer or ask a friend to hold you accountable. You could pay for a gym membership, and hope that your investment will force you onto a treadmill on a regular basis. But personal trainers are expensive, gym memberships go unused, and even the most well-meaning friend may not be able to walk with you if schedules don’t line up. But the solution might actually be right at your feet. That’s right – your fitness fur baby!
Your sweet dog can be the secret weapon to achieving a more active lifestyle. Here is how it works: commit to your dog a certain number of walks or runs per week. The promise is a good start. But here is where you dive deep: treat your walks as quality companion time. Observe how happy your puppy is when you grab the leash, watch his excitement at the outdoor world, notice how amazing water tastes to him when you return. You just made his day! Now when you think about breaking your commitment, imagine his doggy disappointment, imagine him staring at the window, waiting for his next chance to walk with you. Feel more motivated to walk? Good!
Need another reason to pick up that leash and start walking? Your walking companion may also be the key to an improved mental state. Do you ever feel like you spend all day staring at the computer or your phone? Social media makes us both incredibly connected, yet strangely isolated. A recent study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that participants with high social media use felt more isolated than those with lower use. Your regular dog walks will not just burn calories, but will also contribute to a greater sense of connection and meaning. According to HealthGuide.org interacting with dogs can help fulfil a human’s need for touch and can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Spend some time interacting with a friend that can “like” you in person. Animals and people have always had a special bond. Regularly engaging with your dog on walks can be a great stress reliever and way to feel alive. Set down the phone and talk to your dog about your “status.” Having a positive and healthy state of mind directly contributes to achieving your fitness and nutrition goals. Your dog walks can enhance your mental and emotional health.
Here are your action steps:
1. Commit to your dog how often you will walk. If you don’t have a dog, perhaps you can borrow a neighbor’s pet that needs exercise, or volunteer at a rescue or shelter.
2. Tell someone else about your goal. This tip is often skipped but is critical for follow through. Maybe take a selfie with your dog and post it on Facebook, sharing your commitment for walks. You will be surprised at the encouragement you receive. Plus, everyone loves a good dog selfie.
3. Start small and then build. The first step is going out to do the walks. Don’t stress the distance. Build over time.
4. Last, celebrate your success. Tracking your progress over weeks and months can be incredibly rewarding. You are making your body and mind healthy and that is awesome. Your dog will be healthier for it as well!
Christy Campbell is a NCI Certified Nutrition Coach, CrossFit Level 2 Coach and USAW Advanced Sports Performance Coach. She is a Navy veteran, Navy spouse and mom of 2 boys. Read about Christy’s own transformation and weightloss journey at pivotalfocuscoach.com.