want to drop 5 pounds? get a dog!

A 25-year study performed from 1969 to 1994 that tracked weight loss in the obese found that an exercise-only plan can reduce the amount of weight in people by an average of three pounds over 15 weeks. The exercise-and-diet group brought the weight-loss average down to seven pounds in that same time period. To the exercise-only people, I have a word of advice: Get a dog!

Since bringing our golden retriever puppy home less than eight weeks ago, I have lost five pounds. Five pounds on an average-size woman is quite a bit. And it seems to be all lost in fat. I’m becoming more lean and more muscular, which goes without saying that that’s a good thing.

How did I do it? Well, walking a rambunctious puppy two to three times per day for an average of 20 minutes per walk is the key. Playing soccer with him for a few minutes a day a couple times a day helps too. As does getting up at a regular time every morning and not lollygagging in bed (although I haven’t had the pleasure of sleeping in since I was a teenager–and even then it was rare).

Golden retrievers are high-energy dogs. Golden retriever puppies are insanely high-energy dogs. They need to get out at least twice daily, and not just in the yard, but into the neighborhood or the woods or the park, or wherever time and distance permit. Not doing so will make for an ornery dog that can become destructive. Unless you enjoy shopping to replace the furniture that’s been gnawed to slivers, you may want to get on this plan.

This morning I took Woody across the road to the regional park. We are blessed to live within walking distance to one of the largest regional parks in the United States. We are also blessed with beautiful weather that permits taking walks and hikes on nearly a daily basis. Today we explored the bike park for 20 minutes of what Woody would describe, I’m sure, as pure bliss. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the dirt under his paws, the birds flying overhead, and the bunnies scampering across the path were a delight to a dog whose breed loves the outdoors, birds, and tracking scents. He was in puppy Nirvana.

I realize that not everyone has it so good. Maybe their landscape is sidewalks and buildings, maybe the birds flying overhead are helicopters, maybe the closest park is overrun by undesirables. And maybe there is snow or ice or frigid temperatures preventing them from pulling on their sneakers and taking a walk. That’s excusable. To the rest of you, take to the paths and sidewalks and put one foot in front of the other to get a little exercise, to get a little healthier. And if your motivation wanes, get a dog.

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