Millions of people across the United States walk their dogs each day. For these folks, dog walking is a routine part of their schedule, possibly seen as no more than a chance to make their dogs happy. However, these pet owners also experience positive outcomes from walking side-by-side with their four-legged pals. Aside from the well-known physical advantages of daily walks, dog walking offers mental health benefits as well.

Reduce Stress Levels

It’s well known that exercise is a stress-reliever. In a study of 66 people published in Health Promotion Perspectives, walking for just 10 minutes at a brisk pace was found to improve mood. However, walking with your dog can have even greater benefits. 

When you pet, play, or interact with a dog—or any pet, for that matter—your body responds by releasing endorphins and reducing cortisol levels, which helps alleviate stress. And while a quick walk and a few pats can provide mental health benefits for you, your dog will mutually benefit from the exercise and extra love, thereby strengthening the bond that you share. 

Elevate Mood

Owning a dog, and walking with your dog, can positively impact so many areas of your life, which includes mental health benefits. Some of the research-backed health benefits of owning a dog are staying physically active, supporting physical rehabilitation after illness or injury, and developing social and life skills. These outcomes can, in turn, help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

When pup time is combined with physical activity, such as walking, it releases feel-good chemicals in the brain, as mentioned above. Plus, meandering around the neighborhood with your dog, and watching your dog pep up as they explore the outdoors, is often enough to put even a small smile on your face.

Combat Loneliness

Loneliness is a very real problem in the U.S., especially for older adults. Older adults are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of social isolation, which increases the risk of nearly all health conditions. Having a dog, however, and taking your pup for routine walks, can help combat loneliness.

Dogs have a unique superpower: They are able to tune-in to their owner’s tone of voice and body language. By doing so, dogs can interpret how their owner is feeling that day—and whether they need a little extra TLC. And no matter how you’re feeling, a dog’s love is unconditional, a fact that can surely brighten anyone’s day.

Even people with dogs, however, can find it difficult to make new friends—and that’s how walking with your dog can help. Taking your pup for a walk can make it more likely that you’ll run into other dog owners. With this common ground for conversation, it’s easier to make smalltalk. If your dogs also hit it off, you may even find yourselves planning to walk together or meet at a local dog park. 

Build Self-Esteem

One of the main responsibilities as a dog owner is to care for your dog’s needs, which actually provides mental health benefits for you, too. Being a caretaker to a pet makes the owner feel both wanted and needed, which can help with building self-esteem. Feeding your pup, taking them for walks, and showing love are all acts that can contribute to a sense of life fulfillment. 

For people who experience anxiety, owning a dog can be particularly helpful. Going for walks with a dog can be a grounding experience. The attachment between owner and pup can make an anxious person feel supported and more comfortable being out and about. Plus, petting a pup can offer instant stress relief, which can help the owner get through uncomfortable moments. 

Manage Your Schedule 

Having a dog, and walking your dog at set times throughout the day, can help create a routine. Doing so can particularly offer mental health benefits to people who lack a consistent routine, such as students who are home for summer break, people who are unemployed, and older adults who are retired. Something as simple as walking a dog can also provide structure for someone who is dealing with a difficult life transition, such as moving to a new location or dealing with grief.

While some breeds require more frequent walks, like Golden Retrievers, Boxers, and Labradors, there is no limit to the number of times you can take your dog out. You can choose to walk your dog several times a day if it helps you remain grounded. You can also choose your level of difficulty, e.g., walking around a cul-de-sac a few times or taking your dog to a nearby mountain trail. With FitBark GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor, you can even keep track of your dog’s steps and aim for a certain goal each day.

Getting Outdoors With Your Pup

Though warm-weather months are the best time to get out and about with your dog, walking with your pup can offer mental health benefits all year. Over time, you’ll surely notice positive mental and physical changes in yourself from walking—and in your dog, too! And what better way to make practical long-term changes than alongside, and together with, your precious pup.