Lose Your Holiday Weight: Walk Your Dog!

The holidays are over. That means no more parties, no more elaborate turkey dinners, and no more holiday treats making a beeline for your hips. If you have picked up a few pounds that weren't on your wish list, don't despair; there is a simple solution: Get out and exercise.

Given the choice between doing sit-ups and walking your dog, you'd probably grab the leash and head for the door. And why not? Your waistline can't tell the difference. Any physical activity you do on a regular basis will help you slim down and firm up.

Exercise gurus suggest that using the buddy system is a great way to keep motivated to stick to an exercise program and lose weight. Often the hardest part of any program is getting started, but when a "buddy" is depending on you to get off the couch and out the door – in fact, standing there with pleading eyes and his leash in his mouth (sound like anyone you know?) – you are more likely to do it.

Learn From Your Dog

Dogs think exercise is fun. Dogs do not use the snooze alarm to give them "just 5 more minutes" before they get up out of bed and out the door. They do not have a little voice speaking to them from within and saying things like, "You exercised yesterday – today you need a break," or "You can go later when you're not so busy," or "It looks like rain – better wait."

All dogs require exercise – even the small breeds. Some dogs are bred for work or sport and demand vigorous exercise. But your dog needs a buddy, too. If left alone or confined to a fenced yard, he will not exercise either. And an unexercised dog is an unhappy dog, an unfit dog and very often a badly behaved dog.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has many benefits, the most obvious being that it keeps your body toned and healthy, gives you energy, and makes you feel better. For all the same reasons, your dog needs to get up and get moving, too. Here are some other benefits that you shouldn't overlook:

Hit the Road

Fitness walking is different from your ordinary stroll, so you should work into it gradually. You will obtain benefits by walking at a 15- to 20-minute mile, but if you haven't been exercising regularly, you may not be able to move that fast right away. Even if you take 35 minutes to walk that mile, you will improve with time – and you'll still reap the benefits.

If your dog hasn't exercised regularly in the past, he will need to ease into a regular fitness program, too. Have your veterinarian check his physical condition, then keep your eye on him as you exercise; rapid breathing, bright red gums, and lagging behind may be indications that he is fatigued.

Most walking programs suggest the following method:

Precautions

As you begin this new year, make a commitment to yourself and your pet. Exercising with your dog is a great way to strengthen the bond between you. As an added bonus, you'll be exercising, your dog will be exercising, and you will both be enjoying quality time together.