Let’s face it, being active is an essential part of aging well. I think we can all agree on that but for some it’s easier said than done.
If you’re totally unmotivated you can hire a personal trainer but I have found a substitute that works much better for me. I’ve hired my Golden Doodles, who are also therapy dogs. And believe me, do they give me therapy! Unlike trainers, they don’t yell, lay guilt trips or charge by the hour although they have a higher standard of living than most people I know. They may also pee on the carpet if I refuse to get up and exercise.
Aside from the fact that walking with your dog is one of the easiest, safest and most accessible forms of exercise, there are other benefits. For instance, it’s a cure for loneliness. In the training manual for Pet Partners, there is an exercise that says to take a walk by yourself and then take a walk with your dog to see who talks to you.
Without the dogs, all I met were a few homeless people asking for money. With the dogs, I am now on a first name basis with mail carriers, trash collectors and DWP workers. We’ve also made acquaintances on each of our routes, some of whom have been kind enough to invite us to stop by if we ever needed anything. It’s almost like a cocktail party minus the drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Being out with the dogs is also great mental exercise, another key to successful aging. There is something about the rhythm of your steps that frees the mind. Some people say it helps with problem solving or planning their day. For me it gets my creative juices flowing, although I do have a confession to make. I’ve gotten into the habit of recording messages to myself because all of my brilliant thoughts are long gone by the time I get home.
Another benefit is the sense of freedom and independence you have when you’re walking with a dog. Unlike friends, they can’t voice an opinion about where they’d like to go. I have explored so many neighborhoods this way that my three grown daughters are actually getting tired of hearing all the places where people have seen me. And of course none of them were close enough to home for their liking. Isn’t it great when our kids start worrying about us. Kind of like payback.
Speaking of family, I want to share a tip from my late grandmother, who was still strutting around on high heels in her eighties. While you’re out with the dog, if you stand up straight, shoulders back, stomach sucked in, no one will ever know how old you really are.
Written by Ellen Morrow