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Tag: fitness

A fitness tracker (geesh) for your dog


Reading stories about technological advances hitting the marketplace often makes me roll my eyes — because many of those so-called innovations, in my view, are like those new clothes that emperor wore.

Case in point, fitness trackers — those devices you wear on your wrist to remind you to get off your duff. Perhaps they perform some more vital functions, but based on a TV ad — pretty much the extent of my knowledge about them — they will buzz or beep if you’ve been sitting still too long (which most often is a result of earlier technology, i.e. the computer and television).

If that weren’t ridiculous enough, there are also (eye roll) fitness trackers for dogs.

Forbes reports that Whistle, the maker of a fitness tracker for your dog, is raising $16 million in a Series B venture capital round, bringing its total funding to $25 million.

In other words, a lot of people with money believe in it.

Whistle’s $100 Fitbit-like dog collar features a 3-axis accelerometer to track movement, Bluetooth for connecting with your smartphone, WiFi, and an app that collects fitness data, allowing you to track the activity level of your dog.

Whistle has acquired Snaptracs, which makes Tagg, a GPS tracker for your dog that — in addition to tracking movement — also includes a temperature sensor to make sure your dog doesn’t get too hot or cold.

The interest of such companies is understandable, given society is nuts about gizmos, apps and pets. On the latter alone, Americans spent $58.51 billion last year, according to the American Pet Products Association.

I’m all for any device that helps find dogs when they’re lost, but really now, do we need devices to let us know whether our dogs are too hot, too cold, and getting enough exercise?

We already have two devices for that, called eyes. And better yet, they are rollable, and don’t need recharging.

(Maybe someday there will be a wristband I can wear that notifies me when I am rolling my eyes — and reminds me, perhaps with a gentle zap of electricity, that it’s not an attractive trait.)

We’re in danger of letting silly gizmos replace our common sense, while gizmo-making companies get rich on our gullibility.

That’s how my rolling eyes see it; others see it differently. As Whistle CEO and founder Ben Jacobs explains:

“As the Internet of Things moves into these initial areas, people are looking at other key parts of life,” he is quoted as saying in the Forbes article. “The pet is a member of the family and an interesting vertical in the Internet of Things.”

Is there an app to translate that?

Dogs better walking companions than humans


Dogs are better walking companions than humans on almost all counts, a new study shows, with the possible exception of conversation (though I generally favor them in that category as well).

Research at the University of Missouri has found that people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise, walk at a brisker (therefore more healthy) pace, and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion, according to the New York Times health blog, “Well.”

In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a 5-day-a-week walking program — 23 walking with a friend or spouse, 12 walking dogs at a local animal shelter.

The dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers.

“The improvement in walking speed means their confidence in their walking ability had increased and their balance had increased. To have a 28 percent improvement in walking speed is mind boggling,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Johnson said the dog walkers were far more consistent in sticking with the program than those who were walking with humans: “In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking,” she said. “Missouri is a hot state. We would hear them saying: ‘It’s hot today. I don’t want to walk, do you?’ ”

The dog walkers, on the other hand, were nearly always up for the task:

“When the people came to the animal shelter, they bounced off the bus and said, ‘Where’s my dog?”’  Johnson said. “And the dogs never gave any discouragement from walking.”

The study, not yet published,  is continuing, and Johnson said she suspects differences will show up in other areas, like depression and anxiety.

Already, though, Johnson said, many people in the dog-walking group stopped using canes and walkers. “They would say, ‘Now I’m physically fit enough to take my dog for a walk,”’

Kids with dogs are fitter, study shows

Researchers at an Australian University say young children in households with dogs are less likely to be overweight or obese.

The Deakin University study is of particular interest because Australia, like America, has a growing childhood obesity epidemic.

The study of more than 1100 children aged five to 12 found they were slimmer and healthier if they had a dog, even if they did not walk it regularly, according to a report in The Age, an Australian newspaper.

The findings suggest even incidental play with a dog helps children keep weight off, said Jo Salmon, the head researcher and an associate professor at the university.

“For parents who are trying to get their kids off the computer and switching off the TV and getting out and playing, having a pet might be a really good strategy for doing that,” Professor Salmon said. “Social support for physical activity is vital, so this research suggests the extended family network — not just parents and siblings but also dogs and pets — is important for children’s health and their physical activity.”

The study, published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia, follows a previous paper from the same researchers that found young girls who owned a dog were physically active for 30 minutes more than those without a pet.