Walk a Dog, Lose Weight

Study found those who walked one for a year lost average of 14 pounds

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THURSDAY, Oct. 20, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Letting yourself go to the dogs may help you lose weight.

A University of Missouri-Columbia study says that having a dog can help people get more exercise and lose weight.

"Our goal was to look for ways to increase the average exercise regimen, and we found being responsible for a pet, such as committing to walk a loaner dog, encouraged people who did not own dogs to walk more often and for longer periods of time. Our first study group averaged a weight loss of 14 pounds during the one-year program," researcher Rebecca Johnson, an associate professor of nursing and director of the College of Veterinary Medicine's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, said in a prepared statement.

That 14 pounds of weight loss over a year is better than results reported by major weight-loss plans, Johnson noted.

The study included disadvantaged, disabled people who were encouraged to walk dogs on a regular schedule. The participants began by walking with the dogs 10 minutes per day, three times a week, and eventually walked the dogs up to 20 minutes per day, five times a week.

Johnson's next study will involve people taking pets to the gym to see if the presence of pets as support companions can increase a person's self-esteem and get them to do other exercises along with walking.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about walking.

SOURCE: University of Missouri-Columbia, news release, October 2005

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