6 Health Benefits of Dog Walking in Rural Areas
What does your enthusiastic tail wagger get most excited about aside from dinner time? Well, we’re pretty sure that the answer may start with a ‘W’ and end with a ‘K’… Don’t worry, we won’t say it out loud in front of your persistent pooch!
But what about your own excitement when it comes to taking your pup out for a walk? Come rain, wind, or shine, can you truly say that you’re as excited as your dog feels, day in and day out? We’re betting that there are some grey, drizzly days when you’d much rather stay cosied up at home!
Here at Dog Rocks, we’re huge advocates of getting outdoors and into the natural world. In this article, we’d like to take the opportunity to remind you of all the amazing reasons you can find joy in dog walking.
If taking out your pooch can feel like more of a chore than something to cherish, then keep reading for a new-found spring in your step!
Why Daily Dog Walks Are Important for Your Pup
It’s no secret – dogs enjoy the simplest of pleasures in life. And, what’s more, they can teach you how to slow down and appreciate the little things, too. Whether it’s a quick game of fetch or happily investigating some exciting new smells, walks are incredibly important for your four-legged friend.
Not only does walking your dog help to maintain their physical health, but it also provides mental stimulation. This is just as crucial when it comes to a content, snoozy pup. If you’re looking to prevent unwanted and destructive behaviours borne out of boredom – for example, digging up your prized lawn – then grab a lead and some poo bags. It’s high time to get outside, pronto!
Whilst you may stick to a quick once around the block, this is one of the many reasons why it’s important to vary your walks and go further afield where possible. Your pup will be much more worn out from exploring unknown trails with plenty of curious new sights, scents, and sounds to make sense of.
Dogs love to run off-leash, which releases feel-good endorphins that help them to feel happy. It is also great to walk dogs to socialise them with other canine friends, so that they learn how to play and feel comfortable with the world around them.
The Advantages of Countryside Ramblings With Your Pooch
Just as your dog benefits from daily walks, there are plenty of health advantages to be had as a dog owner, too! Read on to discover how regular walks can be just as beneficial for the both of you.
1. Daily dog walking builds healthy habits
It is recommended by the NHS that adults should aim to spend 150 minutes engaged in moderate-intensity activity per week. And whilst you’re probably well aware that exercise forms part of a healthy lifestyle, how regularly can you say you hit this goal?
Well, 71% of Brits walk less than the recommended 10,000 steps a day. It’s easy for life to get in the way and before you know it, exercise has very quickly been demoted to the bottom of the priority list. You think you have to have the perfect gym routine so fail to make a start, or miss a day and lose all motivation.
As James Clear says in his fantastic book Atomic Habits, the consistency of small daily actions add up with compound interest over time. The beauty of having a dog is that even and most especially on those occasions when you really don’t feel like it, they keep you accountable to a little exercise and often, every single day.
And when just an hour’s walk at a moderate pace with your pooch equals around 6,000 steps, is it any wonder that this healthy habit makes dog owners a lot more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements than the majority of the population?
This healthy habit can be the cornerstone for developing other healthy habits in your daily routine as well, such as getting up early (thank goodness your eager pooch doesn’t have a snooze button!).
2. It improves your physical fitness
Walking is one of the best low-impact forms of exercise that you can do. And best of all, you can do it virtually anywhere, without spending a penny!
If the only reason you’re not cancelling the direct debit for your languishing gym membership is that you keep trying to convince yourself “I’ll go tomorrow…” then perhaps it’s time to face the truth of the matter head-on, and consider the slightly less sexy option staring you straight in the face: dog walking.
Especially when you’re lucky enough to have the natural world on your doorstep, a daily walk with your four-legged friend is one of the easiest ways to get active and improve your overall fitness levels, at any age.
Regular, brisk walks have been proven to improve your cardiovascular fitness, lower your blood pressure, strengthen your joints and bones, as well as helping you to better manage your weight.
And the positive impact of spending time out of doors with your pup can be felt when it comes to your all-important long-term health, too. According to the NHS, regular walks can reduce your risk of developing major chronic conditions like coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, and even some types of cancers.
3. Walking in nature has mental health benefits
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
– John Burroughs
Hiking in nature is not only good for your physical health. It also has many mental and emotional health benefits that you can take full advantage of with the simple act of walking your dog.
When undertaking physical activity, you may have felt an inexplicable boost in your mood, increased feelings of well-being, as well as an overall calming and restorative effect when surrounded by greenery.
This is because at a physiological level, walking in nature lowers the stress hormone cortisol and releases the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. It has even been proven in recent scientific research to reduce the effects of anxiety and depression.
4. Dogs provide companionship & connection
One-on-one time spent walking with your dog means companionship that is both non-judgemental and unconditional. The safety of being 100% yourself around your pup has even been linked to increased levels of self-esteem.
And it’s not just the bond you share with your dog that will be helping to reduce feelings of loneliness. Dog-walking can make you feel a greater sense of belonging to your local community, too (just make sure you follow some all-important dog walking etiquette guidelines ).
Pet parents, in particular dog walkers, are more likely to:
- Greet other people in the street
- Do favours for their neighbours
- Meet others in their neighbourhood
5. Strolls with your pooch improve your sleep
Ever heard of the expression ‘dog-tired’? Well, a long walk is a sure fire way to wear out your excitable pup. They’ll probably be sleeping like a baby within 5 minutes of curling up once they get home from exploring a new countryside trail.
Whilst you might not have the same luxury of being able to nap all afternoon, studies have shown that moderate exercise does in fact help you to get more sleep, and this slumber is of better quality.
Human adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Although according to this YouGov article, only about 1 in 5 of us are getting a full 8 hours, and as many as 1 in 6 Brits are getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night on average – an amount deemed to be insufficient and unhealthy. Sleep deprivation is associated with developing conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Not getting enough sleep also has a detrimental impact on essential cognitive functions like focus, concentration, and memory. Fresh air and regular exercise can therefore be an excellent antidote to insomnia, helping your natural sleep hormones to kick in at the right time.
6. Walking is great for the imagination
Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.
– Henry David Thoreau
The Romantic poets knew all about this! From William Wordsworth to William Blake, walking has inspired some of our greatest writers and can be a time when we are struck by our most brilliant thoughts. As Nietzsche famously extolled:
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
Indeed, even some scientific studies show that walking can go beyond boosted cognitive function and actually have a positive impact on creative thinking.
So make sure to take a pen and paper on your next dog walk, so that you can jot all of your intuitive thoughts down as they come to you. You might just find that even your most far-fetched ideas have legs!
Enjoy Green Spaces With Your Pup This Spring
We hope that this article has given you some much-needed inspiration to get up off the sofa, put on your walking shoes, and take your favourite furry friend on a long and satisfying walk. If you needed a reminder that the best things in life are free – look no further!
From improving your physical fitness to helping you to look on the bright side of life, there are so many health benefits to dog walking which you may have been taking for granted!
When you’re out and about in the countryside this Spring, don’t forget to join us in the The Big Countryside Cleanup for our #flickapoo campaign. To continue reaping all the wonderful benefits our natural environment has to offer, it’s important that we all work together to be responsible pet parents! Read more to find out how you can get involved this May.