Let’s face it: many of us could use more exercise.

But we are busy people, and making time for exercise is hard, especially once you factor in the time it takes to get to the gym (YMCA, rec center, pool, or lake), getting dressed for the workout, and then afterward cooling down, showering, and returning to your day. Factoring in all of that, even a short 30 minute work-out session suddenly takes an hour or more.

And we have lots of other excuses: lack of motivation, being overloaded at work, bad weather, feeling bored with our workout routine, or tied down by family commitments.

A workout buddy can help with many of these. I’m thinking in particular of a furry canine workout buddy who will make sure that you get out for your daily walk.

Dogs make great workout buddies because:

they never try to talk you into skipping a session -- they always want to go! they never let their work (i.e. naps) get in the way they don’t obsess about the weather forecast, and don’t mind a little snow, wind, or rain they are always willing to switch it up and try a new route they are fine with you putting the kids in a stroller or on bicycles and walking together as a pack.

Last week the Daily Express published an editorial about Kirksville’s “Get Active” program, which provides incentives for individuals to set realistic wellness goals and track their progress over eight weeks. According to the national website, the “Get Active” program recommends that adults “need to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, for 6 out of 8 weeks.”

That goal is totally do-able with a dog as a workout buddy.

If you don’t think that brisk walking counts as exercise, consider the conclusion of a paper recently published by the American Heart Association: “Equivalent energy expenditures by moderate (walking) and vigorous (running) exercise produced similar risk reductions for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, and possibly CHD” (coronary heart disease).

Did you get that? In other words, it doesn’t matter if you walk or run; if you burn 200 calories doing either exercise, you get similar health benefits. In fact, the data shows that walkers and runners get the same benefit for reduced risk of first-time onset of diabetes, but walkers get even greater benefits in terms of reduced risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Wow.

And it’s comparatively easy for the average person to start walking. You don’t need special clothes or shoes. And it doesn’t hurt as much, so you are more likely to keep it up after that first week.

Remember to start slow and drink plenty of water to “stay hydrated – especially as the weather heats up,” advises Liz Jorn, Health and Exercise Sciences Instructor at Truman State University. “Don't forget some water for your workout buddy as well. Consider carrying a collapsible dog bowl and filling it up at one of the water fountains around town (e.g. Brashear Park). Be particularly careful with older dogs as it gets more hot and humid. Consider walking early in the morning or late at night” to avoid exertion during the hottest part of the day.

If you already have a canine friend, great! Dust off the leash and get moving. Otherwise there are lots of wonderful furry friends available at the Adair County Humane Society. Adopt your new workout buddy today!

CAUTION: Before you are undertake an exercise program we STRONGLY recommend that you see your physician for a complete medical exam, particularly if you have a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease, are over the age of 45, or if you smoke, have high cholesterol, are obese, or have not exercised regularly in the past year.

If, at any time while exercising, you feel faint, dizzy, short of breath, or pain, stop immediately.