Health, Pets, & Parks

By on Sep 7, 2016 in News

Several recent studies reveal a strong correlation between pet and human health. By increasing the pet-friendldogpark2iness of your site, you can boost park attendance and take proactive measures towards community wellness.

A report by the American Veterinary Medical Association states that nearly 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are considered overweight or obese. Poor diets are one culprit. Processed pet foods are rich with grains, byproducts, preservatives, and even components of antifreeze.

But perhaps the largest contributor to poor pet health is inactivity. Pets have adapted to the predominately indoor, sedentary lifestyles of their owners.

Almost 70 percent of American adults are diagnosed as overweight or obese. Unhealthy eating habits and inconsistent physical activity are the leading factors.

It may be possible to improve the health of pets and parents through the park system. The Journal of Physical Activity and Health reports that dog owners are more likely to achieve physical activity goals than people without dogs.

Robert Taylor is a graduate student at Georgia Tech and a yoga teacher.  Taylor has studied yoga for years and has always been mindful of his health. Yet once Laska—an adorable and playful field spaniel—came into his life nearly a year ago, his activity levels increased.

There are several occasions where Taylor would skip cardiovascular activity if it weren’t for Laska.  She motivates such healthy habits.

“For her happiness and health, it is important for her to get moving some everyday at the very least. As a dog owner, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure her needs are met. She depends on me for so much that I feel it is unfair and wrong of me not to meet these needs. So, I am much more inclined to drag myself outside for her sake,” he smiles.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults walk for at least 150 minutes each week in order to maintain good physical health. Such walks in nature are also beneficial for mental health.

People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals recommends at least 20 minutes to two hours of exercise for dogs.

Taylor and Laska regularly clock in at least seven hours of walking, often more.

“On the minimum, we spend seven hours a week walking. From there we add on two or three long hikes and maybe one or two jogs…depending on my personal feelings towards jogging,” laughs Taylor.

Parks are the perfect place to ensure that pets and owners get in their daily doses of exercise. By making your site pet friendly, you can boost park attendance while creating value-added features:

Clean, Cool, & Convenient First for the basics: If you do not have litter stations for pets, install them! These simple stations help to keep lawns clear for all guests to enjoy. Be sure to restock the bag supply frequently, especially in the warmer months when the park gets the most use. High traffic areas will also need restocking.

Survey your park for shade. If it is limited, add more. Shaded knolls and park benches provide pets and their owners with a place to rest when temperatures are high. They are also good resting points for visitors with limited mobility. Invest in benches and trees now that will add years of beauty and comfort.

Pet & Parent Events Host events specifically for pet parents, such as one-mile dashes, 5ks, and healthy snack parties. Pet parents can meet other pet owners with similar fitness goals. Accountability partnerships help pets and owners achieve success.

Fitness Finesse Consider interactive play stations for humans and pets, such as hoops, ramps, and agility obstacles.

Host Pet Adoptions Team up with local no-kill shelters to host pet adoptions at the park. This is the perfect way for active park goers to meet a new workout buddy—who just happens to need a good home with healthy habits.

Overall, making your park a pet-friendly space encourages guests to explore the park system more often, for themselves and for the pets that they bring in tow.

“I definitely find myself out and about a lot more,” says Taylor. “She’s given me the excuse to be much more active and to hike many more trails.”