Hello to everyone from the two newest members of the Body Consultancy Team! Now manning the desk some weekday evenings and Saturday mornings, Alexandra has joined us from the wasteland of the frozen North, and frequently with her on meet and greet duty is Sapphie, her border collie puppy and a fiend for biscuits (if you were wondering what the crunching noise behind the desk was).
In honour of by far the most important of our new arrivals, today’s blog in on the health benefits of dog ownership; there’re a few tips and reminders of best back practice for those who already have a four legged companion, and perhaps some incentives for those considering adding to their family, because we’re sure that, once you’ve met Sapphie, you’ll definitely want one too!
So, let’s go Walkies!
If you already have a dog, try to incorporate these elements into your daily routine:
Look at that tail go when you pick up the lead! A positive mental attitude towards exercise, whatever form it happens to be, will make a huge difference; you are more likely to push yourself further, achieve more and feel better about yourself if you approach the session with enthusiasm the way your dog does. Walking is great, low impact exercise and one of the best ways to make the most of the beautiful local areas around Ringwood and the New Forest, or ask us for information on walks around Bournemouth and along the Dorset coast.
Variety is the spice of life. In order to keep your pet interested it’s a good idea to invest in different toys which you can then swap round to create new games, but this is also great for you. Rather than just throwing a ball or a stick, choose a number of toys which require you to use different muscles and use both your hands and feet to engage with them; your dog will be delighted and you will give yourself a more rounded work out, reducing the possibility of repetitive strain injury. Ask your chiropractor or therapist for some ideas.
Particularly as the weather worsens, it’s tempting to put your collar up and your head down, and try to rush through your obligatory walk as quickly as possible, but to think of it as an extension of your session with us. Concentrate on your posture and walk tall, keeping your head high on the look-out for interesting things or possible doggy hazards. Think about your breathing and the way you move your body; count three steps as you breathe in and three as you breathe out, then see to what degree you can increase that number. If we’ve given you any exercises now is also the ideal time to do them (and if we haven’t, feel free to ask your chiropractor for some); the walk will have warmed your muscles up and it’s a great way to incorporate them into your daily routine so there’s less chance of you forgetting to do them. Adjusting your posture will also impact the way your dog responds to you; as you move with more consciousness your dog will see this as increased authority and respect you more – a great help if you’re struggling with some unwanted behaviour.
Not have a dog, but thinking about getting one? Whether you’re young or a bit older, just look at what scientific research says it could do for you:
Regular dog walkers have a lower body mass index (BMI), and fewer chronic conditions and depressive symptoms than their counterparts. They also sit less every day, use less tobacco and have more social support.
Nor is it just about the walking; dogs have a beneficial effect on improving social behaviour and minimizing agitation and anxiety in people with dementia. Hospital visits from a “therapy dog” animate patients, helping them become more active and responsive while offering them a welcome distraction from pain or loneliness.
Loyola university researchers found that people who regularly petted dogs needed 50 percent less pain medication when recovering from surgery. Owning a dog or undergoing “pet therapy” is being studied for people suffering from fibromyalgia.
A study from the National Institutes of Health found dog owners had a better one-year survival rate following a heart attack than non-dog owners. Male pet owners have fewer signs of heart disease—indicated by lower triglyceride and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels—than non-owners. Studies show that the mere act of petting a dog decreases blood pressure.
Do you think you might be too old for a dog, or not fit enough? Elderly dog owners require 20 percent less medical care than non-dog owners, according to a study at UCLA. Walking a dog or just caring for a pet can provide exercise and companionship; Midland Life Insurance Company asks clients over age 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening, as having a pet reduces the amount of health insurance they may have to pay.
Being close with a dog helps improve human relationships. Studies find that owning and walking a dog increases social interaction. Dogs help ease people out of social isolation or shyness, says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Emory University in Atlanta.
Children who experience caring for a dog have higher levels of empathy and self-esteem than children without pet dogs, shows child psychologist Robert Bierer.
Not got much time with the kids yourself? Children who practice reading to a dog see a 12 percent improvement in reading skills over a 10-week period when compared to children who didn’t read to a dog (who showed no improvement).
Please ask your Chiropractor or therapist if you’d like some further ideas or advice, and of course Sapphie herself is always available for a quick walk, or even just a cuddle if you’d like! We both look forward to meeting you soon.