Monday, April 25, 2011

Do you and your dog have matching love handles? Get tips on exercising with your pet

Walking your dogs delivers physical and mental benefits for you and them

Exercising with your pet is a win-win situation because both you and your pooch, or even your cat, benefit from the activity. Get tips on how to exercise with your animal during a live web chat today, Monday, April 25, at 11 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. Central, 2 p.m. Eastern). Guest Jackie Epping is a public health scientist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and she recently presented her paper "An Exercise Machine with Hair? How Dogs Can Increase Physical Activity" at the American College of Sports Medicine's meeting. She has five dogs and a cat that keep her very busy.

We asked Epping why exercising with your pet is so important:

"A pet can provide social support," she said, "and part of social support is creating expectations: If your dog expects to go for a walk, you are more likely to do that than if you planned to go by yourself. If it's just you, you're more likely to skip it because you don't feel like it, or the temperature is too hot or too cold.

"Dogs need exercise for many of the same reasons we do. There's a parallel obesity epidemic going on in dogs as there is in humans, with some of the same chronic diseases involved, such as diabetes. Dogs also need exercise for mental stimulation; they need different scenery that stimulates their senses.

"Walking a dog is also good for people who might not have social contacts or who tend to isolate themselves. People who walk dogs are seen as more approachable, and they tend to have more contact with people. That's good for your mental health.

"Obese people might feel uncomfortable doing social types of physical activities, or they don't have the skill sets or level of fitness to do them. These people can benefit the most from walking with their dogs."