Dogs have long been called man's best friend due to their loyalty and companionship. Now, a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests they're worth their wagging tails as a weight-loss tool for inactive teens.  

The study found that teenagers with dogs may log an additional 15 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week. John Sirard, Ph.D., the study's lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, surveyed 618 pairs of adolescents and their parents about the number of dogs in their home and how much time they spent being physically active. Then, about half of the teens wore accelerometers-devices used to collect data on time spent moving-for a one-week period to record physical activity.

The results showed that teens in families that owned dogs recorded more time moving on the accelerometers than teens in households without a dog. This extra physical activity is invaluable considering that between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Get Fit With Fido

Simply walking the dog around the neighborhood can shed extra weight, for example, a 100-lb. teenager can burn up to 160 calories an hour walking a dog. But if your teen needs more inspiration to be active with his four-legged pal, suggest the following activities:

Go for a jog. Even running for short intervals within a walk is an excellent way to get the heart rate up.

Get rolling. If your teen feels more comfortable on wheels, have him strap on a pair of inline skates or grab his skateboard whenever he grabs the dog leash.

Take a hike. Not only will your dog enjoy a jaunt in nature, but a 30-minute, moderately vigorous hike can help a 100 pound teen burn up to 270 calories.

Go for a swim.  Some breeds take to water more than others. If your dog doesn't mind getting his paws wet, have your teen take your canine for a dip.

Sutton, Amy. Health Behavior News Service. "Teen's Best Friend: Young Dog Owners More Physically Active."