I just read about a new clinical study by two physical therapy professors at UMass Medical School in Lowell to determine whether more frequent and longer dog walks can help motivate people to exercise more and lose weight. Obviously, more physical activity is beneficial, for both humans and dogs; the question the researchers hope to answer is whether our “emotional investment” in our canine companions can help motivate us to be less sedentary.
As reported in The Boston Herald (“Walk the dog, drop the pounds,” Sept. 28, 2011), researchers Stephanie Lemon and Kristin Schneider got a very enthusiastic response when they put out a call for dog owners in the Worcester-Lowell area to participate in their six-month study, which sets a goal of 2-1/2 hours of dog walking a week. The study will use social media to build and motivate a local community of dog walkers, who will log their walking routes online.
One-third of Americans adults are obese, and 37% of U.S. households own at least one dog, so the professors have good reason to believe that encouraging more frequent and purposeful dog walking could make a significant impact on curbing (“putting a leash on”) our nation’s obesity epidemic.
Most dogs would agree that there’s a lot of room for improvement; 60% of dog owners never take their dog out for a “meandering” walk, according to Schneider.
So, what your excuse for not walking your dog more often? I thought of a few….
1. I don’t have enough time – I can’t even get myself to the gym to work out!
2. I’m too tired after work – I just want to relax and be a couch potato.
3. I hate picking up his poop.
4. I don’t want to have to give him (and myself) a bath afterward (it’s raining and he’ll get us both covered in mud).
5. I can’t control him on the leash – he’s stronger than I am.
6. I get dirty looks when he barks at other dogs, jumps up on people, or pees on my neighbor’s grass.
7. I don’t want to be outside for more than a couple minutes when it’s so cold (or so hot).
8. I got a small dog just so I wouldn’t have to exercise him very much.
9. I already let him go out in my fenced yard – that’s all the exercise he needs, right?
10. I don’t feel safe walking in my neighborhood, especially after dark, and I’m not home during the day.
11. I can’t leave my kids alone while I’m out with the dog, and it’s too much of a production to take them along on a dog walk.
Full disclosure: I’ve used several of these excuses myself. #10 and #11 are certainly legitimate concerns, and, of course, safety and family come first, but with some advance planning there’s often a work-around solution.
To note, all of the excuses begin with “I” – I wonder what our dogs would say if they could speak?