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Make the Fur–Fitness Connection

walking the dog

Remember the movie Must Love Dogs (boy meets girl at a dog park with borrowed dogs)?  Well, that scenario isn’t just a Hollywood fantasy.  Dogs really can be good icebreakers.  Volunteers in the Washington (DC) Humane Society’s P.A.C.K. (People & Animal Cardio Klub) program gather on weekends to walk or run in area parks with shelter dogs.  Singles meet on Thursday nights at Pets Alive, a no-kill animal sanctuary in Middletown NY, to walk the shelter dogs.  What great ways to meet other dog lovers while getting some exercise and helping the dogs!  Several studies have shown that walking with a dog leads to more conversations and helps people stay socially connected.

Social interaction is just one of the many health and wellness benefits that pets provide.  Studies have shown that …

  • Petting a dog or cat lowers blood pressure and heart rate.  One study of 240 married couples found that those who owned a pet had lower heart rates and blood pressure, whether at rest or when undergoing stressful tests, than those without pets.  Pet owners also seemed to have milder responses and quicker recovery from stress when they were with their pets than with a spouse or friend.
  • Pet owners may get more exercise than non-pet-owners.  A recent study of 217 men and women found that pet owners exercised more frequently and reported higher levels of fitness than non-pet-owners.  Furthermore, one NIH-funded investigation looked at more than 2,000 adults and found that dog owners who regularly walked their dogs were more physically active and less likely to be obese than those who didn’t own or walk a dog. 

So what are you waiting for?  Grab your dog, a neighbor’s dog, or a shelter dog and head out for a walk!  When you get back, spend time petting a dog or cat.  You’ll both be glad you did.

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