Everything Animals: Ditch the gym, get a dog - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Everything Animals: Ditch the gym, get a dog

Diana Hanks and Martha Ahmed take their dogs for a walk through the Intervale. Diana Hanks and Martha Ahmed take their dogs for a walk through the Intervale.
Diana Hanks pulls her dog Gunner up a hill in a cart attached to her bike. Diana Hanks pulls her dog Gunner up a hill in a cart attached to her bike.
Hanks and Gunner skijoring. Photo by Peter Wadsworth. Hanks and Gunner skijoring. Photo by Peter Wadsworth.

Burlington, Vermont - June 28, 2011

It takes a lot more than the dog days of summer to keep Diana Hanks and her dog Gunner inside.

Hanks is training for a hill climb bike race but not wanting to leave Gunner behind, she fashioned a cart that she pulls behind her bike. The 130 lbs. of dog and cart are getting her in prime shape, but you don't have to be an avid athlete to get physical perks from your canine companion.

"I think they've kept me a lot more active," Martha Ahmed says of her three dogs.

The Burlington woman used to run every day before an injury put an end to her favorite activity.

"I would say I wouldn't be out as much since I can't run anymore if it weren't for them," she says.

But she still gets exercise because her dogs need to get outside for walks.

"I do that three times a day, once in the morning usually and once around noon and once in the evening," Ahmed says. Each of her walks are about 20 minutes, adding up to an hour of exercise every day.

If you're looking for a workout, getting a dog works. A recent study from Michigan State University shows 60 percent of owners who walk their own dogs get the doctor-recommended 2.5 hours of vigorous exercise every week.

"We take at least four walks a day," Hanks says. "If I'm in a hurry they're half an hour."

That's two hours of exercise right there.

Even winter doesn't put a damper on the dog-motivated workout. Hanks says she likes to strap on short cross-country skis and go skijoring with Gunner.

As Hanks and Ahmed walk through the woods together it becomes clear that having a dog comes with social benefits too.

"We get together at ballparks and run our greyhounds free in the fenced-in area with other greyhound owners," Hanks says.

So if you are looking for a different way to get in shape, ditch the treadmill and get a dog.

A word of caution: While it's great to get outside with your dog, veterinarians warn people to be mindful of the weather. If it's too hot a lot of exercise could put your pet in danger, so bring some water for them and take it easy on the really hot days.

Rachel Feldman - WCAX News

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