Man’s best furry friends provide much more than constant companionship and endless love, although those are certainly major benefits. In fact, they also make a grand workout buddy!
Start exercising with your pet to reap numerous health benefits.
Benefits of Owning a Pet
While one might not be able to workout with a pet bunny or parrot, there are various benefits of simply owning a pet in general. Research shows that pets can help humans better manage loneliness, depression and anxiety by providing enduring companionship.
Furthermore, the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness levels, lower chronic stress, balance hormones and improve overall health.
Specific health benefits of owning any pet include:
• Decreased blood pressure
• Decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels
• Improved stress management
• Increased opportunity for exercise and outdoor activities
• More social opportunities
• Opportunities to develop self discipline, accountability and selflessness
Pets Don’t Get Enough Exercise
Given all of this, it seems like trying fun exercises with furry friends would be a no brainer. But based on a study in Australia, this is not the case!
A study in Australia reviewed exercise habits of those with a dog (about 40 percent of Aussies own one). Researchers discovered that Australian dogs were essentially prisoners of their owner’s sedentary lifestyles.
In essence, furry fervor was not found to be effective at inspiring healthy habits like walking. However, this is a highly underrated form of exercise that could increase both parties’ quality of life.
While not extensively studied in the US, humans and likely pets do not get enough exercise. Amongst other factors, the exponential rise in chronic disease within the last few decades appear as evidence of a sedentary lifestyle.
Following the American Heart Association’s recommendations of achieving at least 150 minutes of exercise weekly would do the trick. This includes walking a pooch for 30 minutes five times a week or taking a 25-minute walk seven days a week.
If that’s too daunting or overwhelming, commit to a daily 10 minute walk with a fur friend. Work up to that 25 to 30 minute mark to create a sustainable, maintainable goal.
Fortunately, there are many other activities to enjoy alongside a devoted pet. Take a look at some of these fun exercises!
6 Fun Exercises to Try With Your Workout Buddy
From heading to the trails to fetching in the backyard, simultaneously leverage fitness goals and spend time with your furry friend with these fun exercise ideas!
1. Head to the Trails
Level up a regular walk by heading to the trails! Not only are hiking trails more strenuous than flat roads, there’s so much more to see and smell! A win-win for all parties involved.
Search for nearby local parks and hidden gems on the outskirts of many towns and cities. There’s typically different trail options for all levels of ability and lengths, so don’t be afraid to start small and progress as fitness improves.
Make sure to bring potty bags, secure leashes and water bowls and bottles to keep everyone safe and motivated!
2. Take a Trip to the Dog Park
Although dog parks aren’t typically considered great places for humans to exercise, they sure can be! While the pups play, take the time to walk around the perimeter of the park a couple times before playing fetch or frisbee, which is also considered physical activity.
Most people do not take advantage of simple movement like this, which is a real shame because any type and intensity of physical movement is beneficial. Not every single workout needs to be a vigorously intense workout. This kind of movement is a great active rest or recovery day activity that once again benefits both humans and dogs.
3. Fetch in the Backyard
Along similar lines, simply playing fetch in a large yard makes for solid movement. In fact, some vets say that play movement is much healthier for dogs than regimented versions (like walking). This play movement allows them to exercise at their own pace, and creates a sort of interval style of working out.
The benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT) have been extensively studied in humans. So, it’s not overly surprising that the same kind of movement is also beneficial to fur friends. Amp up intensity for yourself by:
• Jogging to different places to throw
• Doing sets of body weight movements during the time it takes for the pup to retrieve or
• Moving simply around the yard with some degree of intention
4. Wade the Water
Many doggies love swimming and just like it is for humans, swimming is one of the best workouts for a dog. Not only can you achieve some movement from throwing toys with a dog, but one could also swim a few laps or do water aerobics while the pupper plays and wades.
However, simply walking through a pool for an extended amount of time is good, low impact exercise as well.
5. Race With Your Pup
Nowadays, many pet shelters and adoption agencies hold road races with extended invitations for the dog. Some are held to raise money for a specific cause while others are purely intended for entertainment and fun. Either way, this is a great way to bond and push limits.
Training a dog to be able to run the distance of the race before actually racing is wise, though. While some breeds are naturally adept runners, not all are. But like humans, many can train to be able to run marathons!
Experiment with running with regular leashes versus ones that hook around the waist to determine the best course of action come race day. Also, always remember to properly feed and hydrate pups especially in the week leading up to a race.
6. Let Them Tag Along
Finally, find ways to incorporate dogs into fun workouts at home! If they’re small, well-behaved dogs, hold them as additional weight to body weight movements.
And if they’re tame, you could use them to hop over, as a reference point for outdoor sprints on the driveway or any other unique method. If they’re a large dog, they can still join the fun and offer extra motivation!
Sometimes just knowing someone else is there fuels the drive to accomplish a workout. This works even better if that fur friend inspires you to lead a healthy lifestyle!
The Bottom Line
Many humans and pets fall short of the recommended amount of physical activity, even though fur friends are the perfect workout companion. While they can’t join a gym session, there’s plenty of activities to try outside.
Plus, the benefits of committing to walking them for 15 to 30 minutes a day cannot be overstated. Use them as inspiration or motivation and get moving!
About Pets & People. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 15, 2019. www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits/index.html.