ver wish you had a trainer to help you meet your fitness goals? Have you considered your best four-legged friend? Research shows dogs are perfect personal trainers.

According to studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the American Geriatrics Society, walking your dog twice a day provides an easy way to accomplish the recommended minimum 30 minutes of daily exercise.

Not convinced? Research has shown that dog walkers walk twice as long as walkers without dogs in an average week. Dog owners who exercise with their dogs walk faster than those who don't, and walking faster increases both your respiration and heart rates, which can help burn calories and allow you to maintain or lose weight.

Walking your pooch is good for your heart, too. Individuals who walk their dogs on a regular basis tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

And walking your dog can be an excellent way to blow off a little steam and temporarily escape the stresses of the day. It's also a great way to get to know other dog walkers. Those casual greetings and chats about your pets can help fend off the blues and reduce the likelihood of depression.

Make sure while you're on your stroll that your dog stays safely by your side. Animals who are not neutered have an instinctual drive to find a mate and can detect a female in heat from even three miles away — making their desire to escape hard-wired. Reduce your pet's "need to breed" by spaying or neutering them today. Then they will only have eyes for you!

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Spokane Humane Society.

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