Let's all appreciate the benefits of good exercise ahead of Blue Monday and take it step by step...
It’s free, it’s fun and it’s an excellent form of exercise: walking isn’t just beneficial for dogs, it brings physical and mental health benefits to their human owners too.
Wherever you live in the UK, daily exercise is permitted during lockdown, and with the resolve of a New Year upon us, now is definitely the time to take the lead and make the most of the great outdoors in the company of your canine companion.
It’s proven that dog owners enjoy numerous health and social benefits from walking their pets. These include improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles and bones that are developed by regular walking and decreased stress.
Of course, regular exercise is essential for your pet's health too. All dogs need to be walked at least once daily however some breeds, particularly very active dogs, may require more than this. The breed of the dog you own, combined with its level of fitness and age, will determine how long, and how vigorous, the walk should be.
Walking makes a dog happy, and there can be no disguising how they simply love exploring the sights and smells when they spend time with their owners outdoors. In contrast, a dog that doesn't receive sufficient exercise can easily become bored or destructive.
When your dog is happy, it rubs off on you too. That’s an important consideration on Monday, January 18, also known as Blue Monday, which is said to be the saddest day of the year. The third Monday of the year is reputedly when people feel broke and guilt-ridden that resolutions to get fit, go on a diet, or drink less alcohol have fallen by the wayside.
Exercise has direct stress-busting benefits and can boost production of your brain's feel-good chemicals called endorphins, the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.
Getting out and about with your dog provides the chance for mental therapy, as escaping the four walls of your home is an opportunity to give the mind an altogether different focus. It makes you switch off from the distractions of home, particularly the TV, tablet or smartphone, and instead switch on to different surroundings. Being in touch with nature increases focus and wellbeing, so spending time this way is great for problem-solving and getting yourself unstuck.
And did you know that being around a dog can lower your level of cortisol, the human stress hormone?
The benefits of walking to physical and mental health have been backed up by numerous pieces of research and studies. Here are the statistics according to the NHS:
Those who do regular physical activity like walking have:
- up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
- up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
- a 30% lower risk of early death
- up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
- a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
- up to a 30% lower risk of depression
- up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
At this time of the year, don’t let the vagaries of the winter weather put you off getting active outdoors. If it’s wet, frosty or snowy be sure to have your Dogrobe ready and waiting for your return. Our practical dog drying coat provides an easy way to dry your wet dog and minimises mess to your car or home. We all know how they love to shake off after wet adventures! Putting on our dog towel robe is like wrapping them up in a big hug too, especially if it’s been warming nicely on a radiator in anticipation of your homecoming.
Chilly weather combined with gritted roads and salted pavements may mean that your dog’s paws become irritated, sensitive or cracked. We recommend washing paws first then drying with our Gauntlets to remove excess water. Our Gauntlets are made from a double layer of our own super-absorbent exclusive cotton towelling making them perfect for wiping paws and legs clean. They are designed with a wide opening to fit over winter jackets sleeves so are convenient to use.
Check out how easy our Gauntlets are to use:
Hats, gloves, poop bags, treats….dog walkers tend to need extra kit going out on winter strolls, and if you are walking rather than taking the car, you will have to carry everything with you, but never fear, we’ve got that covered too!
While Dogrobes may be best known for dog dressing gowns, we have complementary accessories designed to make life easy. Our cotton canvas dog walking bags have a water-resistant coating and enough pockets for all your – and your dog’s – essentials.
How often do you struggle to find house keys, retrieve the mobile phone that’s found its way to the deepest recess of your bag, or pull out a ball or treat when it is needed? Us too! You’ll find the Dogrobes' bag a godsend in keeping you organised, putting everything in its place and having a place for everything.
By embracing the colder, darker days of winter you and your dog can use nature to get you through this latest stage of the pandemic.
Research shows that just under half the adult population are spending more time outside than before Covid-19, with most of them reporting how important fresh air is to their health and happiness.**
Chances are that seasoned dog walkers are already aware of the benefits, and others are cottoning on too with dog ownership steadily increasing in the last year.
As a general rule, it’s important to find an exercise regime that suits both dog and owner. By mixing up your walking routine it means that neither you, nor your four-legged friend, will get bored.
Our resident vet, Dr. Ciara Clarke stresses that just like humans, dogs have different abilities at different stages in their lives.
Ciara says: “You wouldn’t expect a toddler to keep up with you on a two-mile walk, and nor will your puppy. Also bear in mind that as your dog gets older it might not be able to keep up with you like it once did.
“If your dog is under the weather or has a long-term health condition, it may not be possible for them to have lots of exercise. The best advice is to talk to your vet about how much exercise your dog will need depending on their health condition or illness, so you’re doing the best for them.
“This is especially relevant for anyone who has become a new dog owner during Covid 19. By seeking expert opinion, you will establish the right walking programme to suit the new addition to your family.”
Concerns over social isolation have been magnified during lockdown restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of Covid 19. Dog walking is a great opportunity to encounter other people safely outdoors and at a safe distance. Getting out for a walk also alleviates boredom – another issue that has raised its head during the pandemic, with less access to many other leisure time pursuits with venues remaining closed and other activities ceasing.
Be sure to always follow the latest guidance for the area that you live in to stay safe and avoid the spread of the virus.
A walk with an enthusiastic canine is instant companionship. Connecting with your non-judgmental and loving best friend helps increase a sense of self-esteem. Make it fun and track your progress on your smart watch or fitness tracker.
Whether strolling along the beach, heading to the hills for a hike, or pounding the streets and pavements of your own neighbourhood, your walking habits will help keep you and your dog in tip top shape.
According to the NHS, adults should aim to achieve 150 minutes of exercise a week to stay physically healthy. Given the overwhelming evidence, it is obvious that we should all be physically active.
It's vital if you want to live a healthy and fulfilling life into old age. Doing it in the company of your dog simply adds to the fun and provides the ultimate motivation. So, Mother Nature really does know best.
Thank goodness for the companionship of our faithful friends during lockdown. Take the lead, and your dog, and get out there to boost body and mind and banish those Blue Monday blues!
- Sources: *Exercising to relax - Harvard Health
- **The Times, Saturday, January 9 2021