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Need a Walking Partner? Try a Dog
Date:6/11/2009

Those who do are apt to exercise (and enjoy it) more, experts say,,

THURSDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- Forget about joining a gym. If you want to get into shape, all you need is a four-legged pal.

Dr. Robert Kushner, a human obesity expert and professor of medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said that dogs make great workout partners in winning the battle of the bulge.

"They are natural exercise machines on a leash," he said.

Research has shown that it's easier to be physically active and stick with an exercise program when you team up with a workout buddy, Kushner said. But unlike human partners, who might make excuses for not wanting to go for a walk or run, a dog never will. They will generally be the first ones at the door, ready to go, rain or shine.

Deborah Wood, an animal shelter manager in Portland, Ore., lost 140 pounds in two years after enrolling in a national weight loss program and going for three-mile daily walks with her three papillons -- pushing the two oldest in a doggie stroller.

"I always liked walking my dogs," Wood said, "but I just made it a priority and worked on going farther and faster."

Finding the right walking speed to reap health benefits is easy, said Dr. Dawn Marcus, a professor in the anesthesiology department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "If you're so winded, you can't talk with someone, then you're probably walking at too hard of a pace," she said. "On the other hand, if you're walking so slowly that you can easily sing, you're probably not walking fast enough."

If your dog tends to saunter down the street, she said, you can intensify the workout by taking a hillier route or by stepping on and off curbs.

Marcus said that one of her most valued "colleagues" in the hospital is Wheatie, her wheaten terrier and a trained hospital therapy dog. "I've found that Wheatie motivates patie
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