Lose 14 Pounds a Year Walking Your Dog

Weight loss rivals major diet programs

People walking with dogs
Walking with Dogs. Gary John Norman/Cultura/Getty Images

Don't want to spend money on a diet program? Take over the family dog walking duties and you may see weight loss that rivals what you could achieve through a program. Walking the dog 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week produced an average weight loss of 14 pounds for participants in a year-long University of Missouri-Columbia study.

Lose Weight Walking Your Dog 20 Minutes a Day

Study participants were economically disadvantaged and disabled people who were not regular walkers.

They began by walking loaner dogs 10 minutes per day, three times each week. Eventually, the participants walked up to 20 minutes per day, five times each week. Those who followed this program for 50 weeks lost an average of 14 pounds.

Sticking with it mattered - those who walked only 26 weeks didn't see significant weight loss."Even though we didn’t see a significant amount of weight loss in the group that walked for a shorter period of time, by the end of the study, all the participants were walking for longer periods of time and walking for daily errands instead of using some other type of transportation," said researcher Rebecca Johnson in a press release.

Dogs Keep You Faithful to Exercise

Walking a dog can make the difference between getting out and walking and deciding to skip it for the day. The commitment to the dog enforces faithfulness to a simple exercise program.

"Many of them told us that they didn’t necessarily walk in the study because they knew it was good for their health; they enjoyed walking because they knew it was good for the animals," said researcher Rebecca Johnson in a press release.

This commitment can be just what people need to get them to be more physically active.

Unlike human walking companions, dogs won't say they are too busy or giving other excuses. They are eager and happy to go for a walk, in all kinds of weather. That's the sort of consistency needed to maintain a new habit and to be able to achieve and sustain long term weight loss.

Proof of Effectiveness of Simple Walking for Weight Loss

Walking with a dog is often fairly slow strolling, and this study used participants who were new to walking for exercise. They were able to build up their exercise tolerance rather than being placed into a program of running or other higher intensity exercise. It is encouraging that good results were seen for those who stuck with the program for a year. This is evidence that simply walking can be effective for making a lifestyle change and losing weight.

Beyond the 20 minutes the participants spent walking, they began adding more activity into their lives, according to the researchers. These extra steps beyond the 20 minutes of dog walking are probably a large factor in their continued weight loss.

Some adopted dogs themselves or began volunteering to walk dogs at the local dog shelter.

Sources:

University of Missouri-Columbia, news release, October 2005

Johnson RA, Meadows RL. "Dog-walking: motivation for adherence to a walking program." Clin Nurs Res. 2010 Nov;19(4):387-402. doi: 10.1177/1054773810373122. Epub 2010 Jul 22.

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