August 26th is National Dog Day and to honor these glorious creatures, I’d like to share an article I published about dogs and how beneficial they are for us, mentally, christyandemma2emotionally and physically.

The obesity rate in America is now nearing 40 percent. There are thousands of diet products offered to those who want to lose weight, yet no one has found a sure-fire resolution to this problem. I think I might have something. What’s that, you say?

Get a dog! Or two or three! This will benefit you not only physically but mentally. How, you ask? Read on!

Anyone who follows the Dog Whisperer knows that a happy dog is an exercised dog. Owning a dog is a great reason to get up off the couch and take a walk. Average calories burned per mile: 100. Walking helps to control blood pressure, decreases the risk of heart attack, boosts HDL “good” cholesterol levels, and reduces LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. It lowers the risk of stroke and gallstones, reduces the risk of breast cancer, glaucoma, and type 2 diabetes, and protects against hip fractures.

Walking can prevent depression, colon cancer, constipation, osteoporosis, and impotence. It lowers stress levels, relieves arthritis and back pain, improves sleep, strengthens muscles, bones and joints, lengthens lifespan and elevates mood and sense of well-being.

Having a dog along for the walk enhances the experience, giving the owner and dog a chance to interact and bond. Being pulled along at a fast pace behind an alpha dog who looks at you as part of his pack may be embarrassing but will increase your caloric output as your legs churn while trying to keep up and your arms pull and tug, fighting to maintain control.

Want to burn more calories? Run with your dog. Running fights aging and disease and is one of the top activities for burning fat. Jogging a one-mile distance in nine minutes will burn 580 calories for the average woman, 730 for a man. Running prevents muscle and bone loss that occur with age and promotes the human growth hormone which helps keep you looking young. Like walking, running reduces the risk of stroke and breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and hypertension. Running lowers blood pressure, thus reducing the risk of heart attacks. It raises HDL “good” cholesterol and reduces the risk of blood clots. It improves breathing as running promotes the use of 50% of the lungs that are not normally “used”. It boosts the immune system by increasing lymphocytes, the white blood cells that attack disease. Running relieves stress, improves attitude, and releases endorphins which leads to euphoria or a general sense of happiness. Running is used to treat clinical depression and fatigue.

Roller-blade with your dog. Calories burned: 816 per hour for a body weight of 150 pounds. (See the information on running for health benefits.) Bear in mind being pulled behind your dog will burn calories, although not as much. But what fun! So add in a few more calories for smiles and laughs.

Throwing a Frisbee, ball or stick with your dog: 210 calories per hour. Add more calories if you have to chase your dog down to retrieve the “toy” from his mouth. (Refer to running data for health benefits.)

Riding a bike with your dog: 381 calories for a 140-pound person cycling 10-12 miles per hour.  (Remember to deduct calories if your dog thinks he’s lead dog in the Iditarod and your bike’s his sled and you’re his musher.) Cycling to the point of heavy breathing but not out of breath reduces the risk of heart disease by as much as 22 percent, high blood pressure, obesity and type-two diabetes. A 15-minute bike ride five times a week will burn off the equivalent of 11 pounds of fat per year. Cycling helps reduce levels of depression and stress, improves mood and self-esteem, and even relieves symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.      

Grooming and bathing your dog will burn 230 calories per hour for a 145-pound person. Additional calories are utilized if your dog escapes and you’re required to chase him down. Even more if he’s so slippery, he gets away and you’re off again. (Check running info for health benefits.)

Petting your dog will expend 132 calories per hour for a 145-pound person. Add more calories for laughing and smiling.

This might not appeal to all, and is a bit drastic, but eat while your dog eats and only for so long as your dog chows down. Most dogs devour food at a fast pace. You won’t get much in your stomach, thus, less calories.

Companion dogs have a strong, positive effect on our mental state, and if we feel good, we become more active and, thus, burn more calories. A UK study by Dr. Deborah Wells reports that owning a dog is good for your health and improves physical and mental wellbeing. Dog companions help the owner to recover more quickly from illness and give warning of early signs of cancer, seizures and hypoglycemia. Dogs help schizophrenics feel motivated and calmer and help children with chronic illnesses endure painful treatments. Strong evidence links dog owners with having lower blood pressure and cholesterol and being less likely to have minor and serious health problems. The human-dog bond provides a psychological buffer against stress.

Researcher and pediatrician James E. Gern, MD reports studies have shown that kids growing up in a home with furry animals have less risk of allergies and asthma as well as eczema. They also have a stronger immune system.

Dogs aid Alzheimer patients in having fewer anxious outbursts. AIDs patients suffer less from depression and people with high blood pressure experience reduced stress. Heart attack patients who own dogs survive longer than those without.

Playing with a dog elevates serotonin and dopamine levels, the nerve transmitters with pleasurable and calming properties. Dogs provide companionship to elderly people as well as exercise and interaction with others. As part of their medical screening, Midland Insurance Company of Ohio asks clients over 75 if they have a pet. If so, this is considered a positive in regards to good health.

Anyone who owns a dog will attest to the reciprocal feeling they experience when they return home and are greeted at the door by their beloved pet, smiling at them, tail wagging, bouncing with joy that their most favorite person in the world is back with the pack and all is well with their world.

Owning a dog is a responsibility as dogs require maintenance, depending on their owner for food and water and, if a housedog, trips outside for potty breaks and exercise. It is important to research the type of dog you’re interested in before committing to ownership in order to have the ideal companion in your life. Think how traumatic it would be for one of these special animals to think he has found his forever home, only to be abandoned or neglected. If at all possible, rescue a dog from your local pound or a rescue group and help save a life.

Interacting with your pet companion in a kinetic and emotional manner can help you lose weight, feel better mentally, and be happier in your life. I guaranty it. And remember, there’s a good reason “dog” is “God” spelled backwards.

And please take a moment and go here: http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/tpc/ERA_082009_ARS

This is the animal rescue site where you can click daily to provide free food to shelter animals. They will send you daily reminders if you wish (look at the listing on the top left side).