Looking for a fitness buddy? Get a dog

Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:04am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When it comes to getting fit a person's best friend just might be a four-legged one.

Experts say studies show dog owners walk more, walk faster, and are more likely to enjoy an active lifestyle because of their companion animal.

"I'm fascinated by what a great motivator dogs can be," said Dr. Sandra McCune, co-editor of the book, "The Health Benefits of Dog Walking for People and Pets."

McCune, an animal behaviorist based in Leicestershire, England, said studies show if you're a dog walker, you're more likely to meet the guidelines for daily activities.

Dogs are the reason behind two-thirds, 66 percent, of the walks their owners take each week, according to a recent survey of more than 1,011 adults commissioned by pet food company Mars Petcare.

One-quarter of people with children and pets regularly visit parks and other outdoor spaces because of their dog.

"Personally, I have a Labrador," McCune said. "When it's dark, when it's raining, the dog needs a walk, every day."

She said dog walking also strengthens social and communal ties.   Continued...

<p>A dog catches a frisbee during the Russian dog frisbee championship in Moscow August 7, 2011. Dogs and their owners took part in a variety of distance and accuracy competitions during the championship to test their frisbee skills. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>