We all know that dogs need to be taken on regular walks to keep their physical and mental health in check. Though it can be easy to forget that the benefits of daily walks aren’t just enjoyed by our furry friends – but by us as well.
Research has confirmed that dog walkers are more likely to meet recommended physical activity guidelines than those without pets. In fact, one study found that 80% of participants who walked regularly with their dog got the recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the health-boosting benefits of dog walking – and how you can still get involved even if you don’t have a dog of your own.
The physical health benefits of dog walking
Studies consistently show that incorporating regular walks into our daily routine can be one of the most effective tools in preventing a variety of health problems – especially chronic issues such as cardiovascular and coronary heart disease. Walking can also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and even increase bone strength.
Plus, like any other form of exercise, walking is a great way to burn calories, maintain a healthy weight, and build stamina. All of these health benefits add up, and studies have shown links between regular walks and increased longevity.
While walking can be an effective method of exercise for a light workout, health professionals recommend taking regular, brisk walks in order to reap the full health benefits.
So, if you want to make sure you’re getting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week, but are finding it tricky to get into and stick to a good routine – then what better way to motivate yourself than teaming up with a canine workout buddy?
The mental health benefits of dog walking
Dog walking isn’t only good for our physical health – it can have positive effects on our mental health, too.
The need to take the dog for a walk at least a few times a week is a great excuse to get outside for some much needed fresh air and sunlight – which can be especially helpful in the darker winter months, when the cold can make it harder to want to go out in the first place. Our bodies need sunlight to produce vitamin D, which among many other things, may help to reduce the risk of depression.
Pets can also promote the production of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which when combined with the release of endorphins (hormones that relieve pain and stress) from physical activity – can make dog walking a very soothing activity.
Having a dog with you on your daily walk can also add a more social aspect to the activity. Dogs are conversation-starters, and can encourage us to interact with strangers in a positive way. Many of us will be familiar with the way that dog walkers tend to become social magnets wherever they take their pet; with people often stopping to chat with them, or asking if they can pet their dog.
Interactions like this can be a great way to feel a little more connected to your local community, and even just to have a more pleasant day. If you go for daily walks with your dog in the same park or along the same walking route, then polite conversations can also turn into friendships – and keeping in touch will already be a natural part of your day, which is a major plus.
A multitude of studies have found that dog walkers are less likely to suffer from loneliness and depression. And regular outings with your dog can play an especially powerful role later in life, when it can become more difficult for us to naturally integrate ourselves into new relationships and social groups.
Dog walking has also been associated with a reduced risk of dementia in those over 65. So, as well as helping to improve your mental wellbeing day-to-day, getting into a regular dog walking routine also has the potential to set you up for a healthier future.
How often/how long should you walk your dog?
The amount of exercise your dog will need is dependent on a number of factors, such as their breed, age, and health. But the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals recommends between 30 minutes and two hours each day for a healthy dog. If you want to check whether your dog is getting enough exercise, then you can use this handy chart on the PDSA website.
If you don’t already have a dog and are considering adding one to your family, then you’ll need to take exercise into account when choosing. If you think you might find it difficult to fit two hours of walking and/or other physical activity into your daily routine, then you’ll most likely want a breed that requires less daily activity, such as a Yorkshire terrier or a shetland sheepdog.
However, if you want to incorporate long or frequent daily walks into your schedule in a bid to boost your own physical and/or mental health, then you may want a more energetic companion, such as a labrador retriever or border collie.
If you’re looking to get a dog – or you’re just curious – then it’s worth checking out The Spruce Pets’ guide to dog breeds. It’s important to remember that getting a pet of any kind is a big commitment, and will require lengthy research beforehand.
How can I get involved in dog walking if I don’t have a dog?
You don’t need to own a dog to make dog walks part of your life. If you have a friend or family member with a canine companion, then why not offer to walk them every once in a while? This will be not only of great benefit to you, but a big help to their busy schedule. Alternatively, why not join a friend who already takes their dog out regularly?
If you don’t have a friend with a dog who you can reach out to, then there are still plenty of other ways you can get involved in dog walking.
Below are a few options that could help you boost your daily activity levels, while finding fulfilment in giving back to your community.
Dog walking volunteer opportunities
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
If you love dogs and have enough time on your hands, then you could take on a role that goes beyond dog walking, and become a foster carer for a trainee guide dog puppy.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is always looking for volunteer puppy raisers to provide love and care to trainee guide dogs while they learn the vital skills that they’ll one day use to change the life of a person with sight loss. The charity provides full training prior to the foster period (which is usually 12-16 months), along with ongoing support from a supervisor.
Becoming a puppy raiser could be the perfect opportunity for anyone who’d like to care for a dog for an extended period, but can’t or isn’t ready to make the permanent decision of adopting.
Note that puppies are particularly energetic – so this could be the jumpstart you need for your new exercise routine.
You can find out more about this opportunity on the volunteering section of our website.
The Cinnamon Trust
The Cinnamon Trust is a national charity, with a network of 18,000 volunteers who help elderly and terminally ill people and their pets – especially in cases where a person is unable to meet their pet’s day-to-day needs.
Cinnamon Trust volunteers routinely make a huge difference in the lives of those who need a little extra help by ensuring that their furry friends are walked and cared for. So this would be a great option for those looking to get involved in their local community, while being more physically active.
You can visit the Cinnamon Trust website to find out more about what the charity does. Alternatively, if you’re looking to get involved right away, you can search for opportunities near you on the volunteering section of our website.
Dog borrowing and professional dog walking services
Borrow my doggy
BorrowMyDoggy is a paid membership service that allows owners to ‘lend’ their dogs to trusted ‘borrowers’. Borrowers take the dogs for walks, have them over for playtime, or even dogsit when their owner is away for multiple days.
If you fancy getting into regular dog walking for your wellbeing – or just for the fun of it – but are unable to adopt your own four-legged friend for one reason or another, then sharing setups like this are a great compromise.
BorrowMyDoggy takes safety seriously, so aspiring borrowers are vetted via a number of safety checks. This means that lenders can relax while their dogs spend time with others, and borrowers can feel reassured by the fact that they’re trusted.
This emphasis on trust is a part of BorrowMyDoggy’s community focus, which makes it another great way to make meaningful new connections. The BorrowMyDoggy website features a number of testimonials from its users who have become firm friends with the people who have shared some quality time with their pets. So it’s not just a useful way to get involved in dog walking, but a great way to expand your social circle.
Tailster is a pet care service that offers tracked and insured dog walking services from paid carers, much like BorrowMyDoggy.
Unlike BorrowMyDoggy, however, Tailster is a platform for independent professional pet care, which means that you could be making money while you walk. Tailster allows carers to set their own rates, and requires review of applications before signing up, for safety purposes.
If you’re interested in starting your own pet care business, you can find out more on Tailster’s website.
Another popular option for aspiring dog walkers or sitters is Rover – which will connect you to a huge network of people across the UK and abroad who are looking to pay someone to sit for their pet.
Regular exercise of any kind can be hugely beneficial in a number of ways, and becomes especially important as we age. However, it can be difficult for many of us to find the time or motivation to incorporate that physical activity into our daily routine.
With studies showing that regular, brisk walks can prevent chronic health problems, promote strong bones, and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, it’s worth considering what this addition to your daily routine might do for you. Dog walking can also be a great way to make new friends, and to give back to your community by helping a pet owner in need. Plus, it’s great for your mental health too.
So, why not consider pairing up with a canine exercise buddy if you need that extra boost of accountability, or just fancy spending time with a furry friend?
If you’re considering adding a four-legged friend to your family, then you might want to check out our Complete Guide to Adopting a Dog or our article on 10 benefits of owning a pet, for more information.
Do you have a canine companion who helps you keep fit and healthy? Or are you considering teaming up with a new furry friend? We’d love to hear about your dog walking experiences in the comments below.