In today’s New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds writes about a study showing that dog owners get four times as much physical activity as do non-dog owners. The study also showed that people who walk their dogs do just as much other physical exercise as other people — and that includes kids.
Another Gretchen Reynolds article from earlier this month cited a study from the Journal of Happiness (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t cite studies from the Journal of Happiness?) in which a review of the science literature showed that as little as ten minutes physical activity per week might result in increased levels of happiness.
My dog loves to go to the dog park, even though he’s an introvert; and the same is true for me. I’ve met people at my local dog park who know me only as “Trusty’s mother,” but with whom I greatly enjoy walking. There are even a few who have become dear friends. During the winter, though, I admit that I have sometimes regretted having a dog. I hate going outside when it’s cold. Actually, though, that’s one of the best reasons to have a dog – at least for me (and probably for other people who have some variant of seasonal affective disorder). Being forced to go outside invariably serves to elevate my mood during those unpleasant months. In fact, there’s actual evidence that outdoor physical activity has greater mood-enhancing benefits than does indoor. (1,2)
I’ve stressed the value of exercise at length with regard to physical, mental, and emotional health. Physical activity will help your body prevent depression (3), arthritis (4), cognitive decline (5), heart disease (6), and cancer (7). You’ll live longer – and more than that, you’ll live better.
You know all that. But you also know that if physical activity isn’t fun, at least a little, you’re not going to do it. So find something that is fun enough that you’ll do it again. Move your body. Dance, hike, bike, swim — or get yourself a nice shelter dog.
(1)Lacharite-Lemieux M et al. Adherence to exercise and affective responses: comparison between outdoor and indoor training. Menopause 2015; 22(7):731-40.
(2)Puett R et al. Physical activity: does environment make a difference for tension, stress, emotional outlook, and perceptions of health status? J Phys Act Health 2014; 11(8):1503-11.
(3)Stanton R, Reaburn P. Exercise and the treatment of depression: a review of the exercise program variables. J Sci Med Sport 2014;17(2):177-82.
(4)Abbasi J. Can exercise prevent knee osteoarthritis? JAMA 2017; 318(22):2169-71.
(5)Bernardo, TC et al. Physical exercise and brain mitochondrial fitness: the possible role against Alzheimer’s disease. Brain Path 2016; 26(5):648-63.
(6)Rahman I et al. Relationship between physical activity and heart failure risk in women. Circ Heart Fail 2014; 7:877-81.
(7)Moore SC et al. Association of leisure-time physical activity with risk of 26 types of cancer in 1.44 million adults. JAMA Intern med 2016; E1-E10.