October 1-7th is National Walk Your Dog Month!
Most dogs are always excited to go for a walk no matter what the conditions: drizzle, cold, heat. Just say the word “walkies” and their tails start wagging like mad. Yet many pet owners often don’t feel as excited about heading out for a walk when the weather’s bad, they feel stuck for time or they simply need an extra hour’s sleep. Many reluctantly drag themselves out the door and get the walk done as fast as possible. However, in doing so, pet owners don’t just deny their pets some important daily exercise that helps keep dogs fit, healthy and happy. They equally deny themselves an easy daily activity that has tremendous benefits for human health.
Walking Helps Reduce Blood Pressure
Regular daily walks have been shown to help lower high blood pressure (HBP) and, by association, HBP-related health risks like heart disease and stroke, and they don’t need to be marathon walks. According to the American Heart Association, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like dog-walking (done five days a week) helps lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.
Walking Boosts Happiness
While walking combines several mood-elevating elements like fresh air, nature and the chance to buy some snappy new sneakers, walking helps boost serotonin, one of four natural brain chemicals commonly called the “feel-good chemicals.” In studies published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, researchers revealed that exercise helps boost serotonin levels by increasing brain levels of tryptophan, an amino acid used in the natural manufacture of serotonin.
Walking Improves Balance
As people get older, their sense of balance tends to get worse. Compounding this, certain medical conditions, medications and lack of flexibility can further deteriorate balance. All of this combines to increase the risk of falling (particularly with adults age 65 or older), and according to the World Health Organization:
- Falls are the second leading cause of accidental injury worldwide.
- 3 million falls each year are serious enough to require medical attention, with 17 million falls resulting in disability-adjusted life years for injuries like hip fracture and head trauma.
- 646,000 people around the world die each year from falls.
Walking helps improve balance and protect against injury by building lower-body strength.
Walking Helps Control Blood-Sugar Levels
According to the American Diabetes Association, low-impact exercise like walking helps reduce and control blood-sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity. Walking can also help keep blood-sugar levels under control for up to 24 hours after a workout. The key to optimizing walking for diabetes prevention and control is regularity. According to joint studies by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association, individuals with type 2 diabetes should engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. And this recommendation aligns with the American Heart Association’s guidelines for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity done five days per week.
Walking Improves Management of Joint and Muscle Pain
When joints ache and muscles are sore, people naturally tend to avoid walking and other activities that may aggravate the situation. Yet according to Harvard Medical School, walking helps ease joint and muscle pain—even in people with arthritis. Walking also helps increase muscle flexibility and keeps bone and cartilage tissues strong and healthy.