“Pets are the unsung heroes in our community. They really encourage us to live our best lives and just give us love in return,” vet and TV personality Dr Chris Brown told Prevention.

“Across all ages there have been proven mental health benefits of reducing levels of loneliness, anxiety as well as medical benefits such as lowering blood pressure. People with pets are at the doctor less and take fewer medications,” said Dr Chris.

Research has found that pets are some of the most effective personal trainers out there with pet-owners doing 69 per cent more physical activity than animal-free households.  

“Without even realising it, a simple dog walk is a really easy way to exercise,” said Dr Chris. “Dogs have got their own little version of fitspo and they subtly, and quite powerfully, encourage us to get out there.”

The trick is finding what suits your dog best. A little Chihuahua may struggle on your 30 minute high-intensity run but a 20 minute walk before work could be all they need to stay relaxed through the day and you’ll feel better for it too.

“The best thing you can do for your pet’s health (with pet obesity at 59 per cent) is get them out and get them exercising. It’s probably the best thing you can do for your own health, too,” he adds.

Hitting the outdoors with your dog has more than just physical benefits. They also act as social glue, bringing a community together.

“If you look in your local dog park, while the dogs are running around, sniffing each other, having fun, the humans are engaging in a social way on a different level, they’re talking, having a laugh and getting to know each other,” said Dr Chris.

So this National Dog Walking Week he has one final piece of advice: “Just start! Establish a routine and you’ll find it won’t just be your dog guilting you into a walk - it will become part of your life.”

Discover more about the Keep Australia Pet Friendly campaign and get some useful resources from petpositives.com.au.

© Prevention Australia