Why Walking the Dog Is Not Exercise

I used to think that walking a dog was a good form of exercise, but I now know with absolute certainty that I’ll never get fit walking my dog. My eight-week gym sabbatical reminded me of that, because walking Benji was my only so-called “exercise” during that time--and what I did during those weeks was the opposite of getting fit.

Let me give you picture of what walking Benji is like, using this afternoon’s walk as an example:

We step out the front door and off the porch. Benji finds the perfect blade of grass and pees. We walk down the driveway. Tomorrow is garbage pick-up day and one of my neighbors has already put their garbage bag by the curb. (I live in a townhouse community. I share my driveway with 15 other units.) Benji must inspect every inch of the garbage bag. It will be worse tomorrow morning, when Benji must inspect every garbage bag on the curb. Eau de garbage is his favorite scent. We’ve been out the door three minutes, and we haven’t made it the street yet.

Finally, we make it to the curb. I make Benji sit, and we wait for any cars to pass by. Then we cross the street to the sidewalk. (Yes, I have to cross the street to get to the sidewalk. That's one of my community's many quirks. It's especially fun in winter, after the snowplow has been through.)

Once we reach the sidewalk, all is not smooth sailing. There’s more grass on that side of the street—not to mention trees and lampposts and mailboxes. Plenty of places for Benji to check the neighborhood pee-mail, and apparently there are quite a few messages to exchange.

If I’m lucky, I can put together ten continuous steps before I have to stop to wait for Benji to take care of whatever business occupies him.  When it is time to take care of business, so to speak, Benji must again find the perfect blade of grass upon which to leave his deposit. This requires a great deal of sniffing the grass and walking in circles, then changing his mind and repeating the process until my little Goldilocks has found the grass that is just right.

It’s not only the stopping and starting that hinders my dog-walking “workout.” Benji’s an old dog—he just turned 13 in March. He has a heart problem and mild arthritis. As a result, he can’t walk as much or as far as he used to. On a really good day, he can go for 20–25 minutes. Most days he can only manage 10 or 15.

That’s enough for him, though, so he stays slim and trim. I, on the other hand, don’t.