Pooch Power

Walking Fido can help keep you fit

Dog owners who walk their dogs every day are more likely to get the recommended amount of weekly exercise than non-dog owners.

A Michigan study published this year in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health concluded that dog walkers have 34 percent higher odds of obtaining at least 150 minutes per week of total walking than those who don’t go walking with a pooch. They also are 69 percent more likely to engage in other leisure-time activities.

The findings, which were based on the responses of 5,902 study participants, have implications for the heart. “It turns out people who walk their dogs overall have better health and better heart health than people who have cats,” says Marc Gillinov, MD, a heart surgeon at the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic. “I happen to be a cat person, but the dog gives you companionship and it gives you a reason and a need to exercise.”

If you are not a dog lover, there are other ways to make sure you exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week. “It doesn’t have to be 30 consecutive minutes. It could be a piece here or a piece there,” says Dr. Gillinov, who did not take part in the Michigan study.

“Take the stairs. Don’t be one of those people who gets in the elevator and goes up or down one floor,” he says. “When you park your car, don’t search for the closest spot. As long as it’s not raining or snowing, park a little ways away and walk to where you’re going.”

Heart Book in the Works

Dr. Gillinov, who holds the Judith Dion Pyle Endowed Chair in Heart Valve Research, and Steven Nissen, MD, holder of the Lewis and Patricia Dickey Chair in Cardiovascular Research and Chairman of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute, are coauthors of the upcoming book Heart 411. In the book, which will be published by Random House in January, the two cardiac care experts dispel the myths and reveal the facts about preventing and treating heart disease.

Dr. Gillinov says that moderate exercise, such as walking or playing golf, is fine for most people. Even having a heart problem doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. Just check with your doctor first, he advises.

 “A lot of people who’ve had a heart issue have stopped exercising because they’re afraid. Go to your doctor. You’re going to get a program that will let you exercise, and it’s going to make your heart stronger and better.”

To make a gift supporting the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure giving site or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.

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