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Cognitive Benefits of Walking Your Dog

Jul 7, 2023 by Vreny Blanco · 5 min read · Focus

Guapo staring at the camera
Image with permission from Charleen Hoffmann

Having a companion animal, such as a dog, has been associated with positive effects on overall human well-being. Dog ownership is a strong motivator for regular physical activity. As a responsible owner, you should meet your pet’s basic needs and provide play and exercise.1 Although the primary motivation is to keep your pet healthy, regular exercise with your puppy promotes your well-being as well.2

Regular walks with your dog improve your focus, concentration, problem-solving skills, and relaxation. They also reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels 3 4, increase your self-esteem, foster a sense of community, fight boredom, and provide physical and mental well-being for you and your furry friend.3

In this article, you will learn about the relationship between owning and walking a dog regularly and its impact on your well-being. It also highlights the cognitive benefits of walking, such as increasing concentration and creative thinking.

Charleen Hoffmann y Chica looking at nature
Image with permission from Charleen Hoffmann

Dogs and Motivation for Regular Exercise

Owning a dog motivates us to exercise regularly and helps us stay active. Dog owners are nearly four times more likely to meet daily physical activity guidelines and walk an average of 300 minutes per week.4

Dog ownership has been linked to reduced cardiovascular risk, lower blood pressure levels, improved lipid profiles, and reduced stress responses. It has also been associated with a lower risk of death, primarily due to reduced mortality from cardiovascular causes.5

Studies have shown that having a companion animal reduces depression and provides a natural mood boost.4 Owning a dog brings immediate joy and long-term well-being. Dogs offer support during difficult times, give you a sense of purpose, and can even help with mental health symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts.

People who have a strong bond with their pets are happier, less stressed, and make fewer visits to the doctor. The benefits of human-animal interaction depend on the quality of your relationship with your pet. Those with a compatible and strong bond with their dogs experience better relationships and higher levels of happiness1.

Aran. Golden retriever in beach
Image with permission from Jenoff De Vrieze

Cognitive Benefits of Walking

Did you know that an act as simple as walking can benefit your brain? Walking has been shown to increase brain oxygenation, stimulate creativity and unlock valuable subconscious thoughts contributing to higher cognitive performance. Incorporating short walks into your daily routine can improve mental clarity, focus, and overall brain health.6

Boost Your Brain Power

Walking increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, nourishing brain cells and improving cognitive function and concentration.7 This increased oxygenation creates fertile ground for creative thinking, allowing your brain to generate new ideas and innovative solutions.

A brisk walk (3 mph or 5 km/h) increases brain activity associated with concentration and attention. It also helps protect you against the memory decline that often occurs with age.6

Stimulate Your Creativity

Walking unleashes your creative potential. Walking, whether on a treadmill or in nature, has been shown to increase creativity by about 60%.6 8 Walking increases creativity by enhancing divergent thinking and generating innovative ideas. It has been observed that creative thinking increases, especially during and shortly after walking.8

Walking also provides a unique opportunity to access the subconscious mind. The induced state of relaxation allows thoughts and ideas buried in your mind to surface. These subconscious revelations can significantly enhance your cognitive performance, allowing you to approach complex tasks with a new perspective and ingenuity.8

Promotes Mindfulness

Walking can become a mindfulness practice. It invites you to immerse yourself in each step and embrace the present moment. Like meditation, walking with mindfulness calms anxiety and promotes an overall sense of well-being.7

Lift Your Mood

Walking stimulates the release of endorphins (natural chemicals that induce relaxation and elevate mood). Endorphins interact with brain receptors, reducing the perception of pain and improving the sense of well-being.7

Improve Your Sleep

Regular walking has been shown to improve sleep quality. 6 7 Walking helps regulate your sleep patterns and improves the quality of your rest, so you wake up refreshed and revitalized.

Guapo, standing on 2 legs
Image with permission from Charleen Hoffmann

Conclusion

Incorporating a walk into your daily routine has transformative effects on your brain health and mental well-being. By walking your dog, you stimulate the release of endorphins, improve your cognitive abilities, tap into your subconscious thoughts, and encourage mindfulness.

Take advantage of the joys of dog ownership and the power of walks with your dog to cultivate a healthier, sharper, and more focused mind, which will benefit both you and your best friend.

Acknowledgments

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Charleen Hoffmann, Jenoff De Vrieze, and Tulika Sinha for allowing us to use pictures of their adorable dogs in this article.

wet golden retriever in nature
Image with permission from Tulika Sinha
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