If you’re the average American, you could stand to lose a few pounds. Okay, if you’re the average American, you could stand to lose a lot of them! The problem is finding the time and motivation to exercise. Here is where your dog can be a big part of the solution.
Despite the billions of dollars spent on diet products and exotic weight loss theories, losing weight really boils down to a game of math. If you eat more calories than you burn in a day, you gain weight. If you burn more calories than you eat, you lose weight. It is really this simple. The best strategy for achieving weight loss is to minimize your calorie intake while maximizing the number of calories you burn.
You dog isn't going to help you with the diet side of the weight loss equation. If you've ever taken the time to watch them eat, you know they will scarf down anything within chewing distance. Low calorie, high calorie – it really doesn't matter. You buddy, however, can help you burn more calories through exercise.
At a minimum, you should be taking your fur ball for a walk each day. Dog's have plenty of energy and they get bored sitting around the house or yard all day. Even just a 30 minute walk lets them get out, do some sniffing and stretch their legs. It also has incredibly benefits for your overall health and weight. Consider these benefits:
- Walking just 2.5 hours a week when combined with weight loss of seven percent of your body weight reduces your risk of diabetes by half. Half!
- Walking 30 minutes a day reduces the incidences of depression by half.
- Walking strengthens your bone structure, which is important as you age.
- Walking 30 minutes a day helps brain function, which I can tell you I certainly need!
What about calories burned?
- A 200 pound man walking 30 minutes will burn roughly 285 calories.
- A 130 pound woman walking 30 minutes will burn 180 calories.
Both of these help crank up the number of calories you burn a day. If you can control the calories you take in, this can help you lose weight.
Running is a tremendous way to lose weight. As you can imagine, the calories burned per minute are much higher than with walking. Unless you fall in love with the runner's high, staying motivated to pound the pavement
every day can be difficult. Again, your dog can make a huge difference in this area.
I live in the mountains in a fairly rural area. There are open meadows surrounded by beautiful tree lines, rivers and lakes. There are also plenty of great trails to go out and exercise on. I try to get out there every day. Whenever I do, I inevitably see Mike and John. They jog roughly a six mile loop up through the trees and around the outside of the meadow I hike through. I see them running by both panting and sweating, but with that sort of content, stupefied grin you see on runners.
Mike is a 10 year old black Labrador Retriever
and John is a 40 something year old man. I'm never entirely sure who is taking who for a run, but they are both in incredible shape, which can teach you and me a lesson. Running with your dog is a great way to burn off stress and keep those "lbs" under control. Consider the calories burned when running:
- A 200 pound man jogging 30 minutes will burn roughly 555 calories.
- A 130 pound woman running 30 minutes will burn 320 calories.
Multiple these figures over a year and you are looking at some potential significant weight loss. After all, have you seen many fat runners? You are also going to have a very happy, healthy dog!
A Word of Warning
Looking at these numbers, you might be tempted to run out and buy a dog as a motivational tool for your exercise program. Don't. You need to commit to exercising first and make sure you can stick with the program. It just isn't fair to the pup if you buy them with the intention of exercising and then bail on the program. If you are one of those people with a treadmill in the corner gathering dust, you need to think twice about getting a pup.
Also, know your dog. Certain breeds are going to have a tough time running long distances because of their anatomical structure. Dogs with short snouts tend to have significant breathing limitations that make running longer distances a non-starter. There are, however, a few breeds that are built to be great running companions including:
As Americans, we sit and sit and sit. Is it any wonder we are getting bigger and bigger? You need to get up and get outside to burn off some calories. A dog can provide you with all the motivation you need. After all, who can deny a pup vigorously wagging its tail and staring longingly at the door?