Poll: Does Your Pet Motivate You to Exercise?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It's been just over a year since my favorite four-legged fitness buddy stumbled into my life. One March evening, my husband and I found the stray puppy darting back and forth across a busy street. She didn't have a collar or microchip, and by the looks of her bony ribs, she had been on her own for a while. After calling shelters and searching for her owner, we officially adopted Ginger as part of our family.

Now it's a normal part of our routine to walk (or run) with Ginger every morning and every night, too. Managing the household, going to work, waking up, cooking dinner, hitting the gym—it all revolves around Ginger's exercise/feeding/potty routine these days. We push back everything else to make sure one or both of us walks or runs with her not once, but twice a day.

If I go out of town sans dog like I did last weekend, I actually miss my daily walks with Ginger. Left to my own devices, I don't have a built-in workout "appointment" each day. I have to motivate myself to get active, which is far harder than knowing Ginger is waiting for me by the door. This led me to wonder: Does your pet motivate you to work out?

One thing's for sure: Making sure Ginger gets the exercise she needs to stay fit, healthy and content means that my husband and I are even more active than ever before. Rain, show, shine, heat, ice—whatever the weather—we exercise with Ginger morning and night. Even on my rest days from exercise, thanks to Ginger I'm taking part in beneficial active recovery in the form of a brisk walk rather than parking it on the couch. She's the reason I've been able to maintain current—and longest—workout streak: 66 days and counting!

I couldn't have kept that up without Ginger motivating me each day. That's why dogs make the best fitness buddies. That's not just my opinion either; research supports the idea. A few months ago I shared a study that showed dogs trump people as walking buddies because humans tend to make excuses while dogs don't. And a recent New York Times story, "Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog." shared even more research on dogs are workout motivators.

In one of the studies author Tara Parker-Pope reported on, researchers found that among 2,170 Michigan dog owners, those who took their pets for regular walks met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise. Nearly half exercised an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. By comparison, only about a third of those without dogs exercised that much.

A desire to get more active—and maintain the motivation to stick with a routine—isn't a bad reason to consider getting a dog. As long as you are committed to properly training and caring for a pooch, I think it's a great reason. Now that I have a dog, I'm more active than ever before, taking Ginger for walks, runs and hikes every day. Even if I'm not motivated to do it on my own (and trust me, there are many cold mornings that I'd much rather stay in bed), she inspires me to get outside because I know it's what's best for her. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Far more fun than a treadmill, maybe what you really need to stick to a workout routine isn't the latest workout gadget, but a little motivation of the furry kind.

Do you have (or have you had) a dog that motivates you to exercise? Would you consider "exercise motivation" a good reason to consider adopting a pet?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more: pets


I have three rescues and they have changed my life! My husband tends to feed them from the table so we try to eat a lot of lean protein which is good for all of us. We also love our walks! Report
My dog, Sandi, is the best walking partner! She gets so excited whenever she knows it's time for our walk. We walk 3 plus miles at least 5 times a week. When we first started walking together a few months ago, neither one of us was in the best of shape. Now, we're both in better shape, but I think she has benefited more than I have. While I try to keep a pretty fast pace, there are times that I just feel like I have to slow down, but Sandi looks at me with that "Let's go, don't stop now" look and that perks me right up. I can't let her down, so yes she is motivating! I really don't know what I would do without her. Report
I have no yard, so Jack and I go out for at least 1/2 mile 4x a day! Lucky I work from home, huh? Report
I'm so glad to hear that others are walking their dogs as much as I walk mine - rain, snow or whatever the midwest weather conditions. I feel so badly for all the other dogs in our neighborhood who never leave their yards. I just don't want to disappoint my pal Luci who LOVES her walks! Report
Yep -- my three dogs get their own exercise walk and I get three. I wish I could run as I know two of them would love it. But they settle for walks. They are all rescue dogs and we love them dearly. We would love to have more, but I don't have that many walks in me!! lol. See them on my sparkpage. Report
I miss my dogs so much. When I was a teenager we had two dogs (a German shephard and a Golden retriever). It was mostly my job to take them for a walk and even though I bitched about it every time it was raining, snowing etc., looking back I realised that they were keeping me fit without me even realising it.

I'd love to have a dog again, and some day I will. Unfortunately, I live in far too small an apartment and have no time to support a dog at the moment. But I really, really miss it and having a dog around would make getting out so much more enjoyable. Report
We have 2 wonderful fluffy friends...churchill, a shih tzu 13 years old, and bella, a rescue, a 2 year old toy poodle/maltise mix. Between the two, we never seem to lack exercise. Churchill is lean and mean, bella...well, not so much! I take one around the park, then the other. When we come in, they eat their breakfast and mom takes her 3 more turns around the park. So far I have lost 45 pounds...thank goodness we are in florida during the winter. Without the dogs I'm not sure how motivated I would be. Report
Its seams like I never have the time to walk, or run. but if I don't get out a walk the dog I feel like I have let him down some how. So out the door we go,we try for at least 6 miles a week or more.. Report
My babies (Beezus and Robbie) definitely motivate me. There is no peace until we go for our walk/run every day. There is no greater condemnation than a dog's eyes when it feels cheated of something. LoL
TerrBear Report
I have dogs, cats and horses - all rescues - and none of them motivate me to exercise! Walking and, playing with all of them I do for both the joy of it and because I am responsible for their well being, which is why I would never recommend that someone get a dog as a motivation to exercise. That said; you have not experienced ss much exhaustion in such a short period as when you have finished "walking" a 1300 lb., super fit Thoroughbred who is on total stall confinement except for two 20 minute (no more no less) walks each day. That is exercise. So go out and enjoy the walk, experience the scenery the fun and forget about it being exercise. Report
Wally (my Greyhound/Lab Lurcher) and I hit the pavement 3 times a day regardless of the weather (rain, snow, dark of night) - first thing out of bed, when I get home from work, and late evening before bed. If he's been to daycare he gets quite the workout and so comes home and falls asleep. I don't wake him and I don't take that after-work walk so, in a nutshell, yes - my dog does motivate me to exercise! Report
My dog is the best motivator because she doesn't listen to my excuses. She just needs to go for a walk NOW. I love going for walks with her. She's is getting up there is years. but at 13 she is still spry and has no issues getting around. This blog is too true. Report
COOL Report
Sorry I am a CAT MAN and will be for life. I still get some exercise with my Maine Coons sometimes the old guy still gets playfull (he is 12 this July). Report
When I went to the Humane Society, that is what I was looking for, a dog to run with me. My dog, Ginger, has been my running partner for 2 years now. On days I don't run, my husband walks her. It is good for all of us! She's a very happy girl & I am grateful for such a loyal partner. Report
I'd love to walk my dog, but since I suffer severely with arthritis, my husband does the dog walking. I may do a bit, this summer. Report
My motivation is to be more active than the cats - not a high hurdle! Report
My dog drives me completely nuts until he gets his evening walk. It isn't necessarily voluntary motivation but if he doesn't get his walk no one gets any peace or quiet! Report
just got a puppy, as soon as he isn't scared I will take long walks with him! He's my little buddy :) Report
Yes, she does! It's nicer now that she's gotten older so she doesn't pull on the leash so much, especially after all my knee and foot surgeries the last 5 years! Report
Agree! My puppy has done wonders for my exercise regime! Report
My dog not only motivates me to go on a daily walk but is also an alarm clock so I don't stay in bed half of the morning! What a motivator! Report
I am a foster volunteer for a rescue group, I have 8 dogs and they definitely keep me active! However, I would not suggest getting a dog solely for the purpose of exercise motivation unless you are really committed to the care and training of a dog. I see way too many dogs ending up unwanted in shelters because their owners decided that they didn't have time, or because they had too much energy and their owner did not want to exercise them. Report
My two cats and I stretch together everyday!!! They've taught me how to wake up healthily! :) Report
I wouldn't say she motivates me, but my dog definitely forces me to be active. If I don't walk her she's the most annoying pooch on the planet! The dog I had when I was younger was never walked. She just lazed about. My current dog, however, is VERY active! We rescued her from a shelter and she didn't seem so rambunctious but once we brought her home her true colors showed! But I am grateful, she makes me get at least a 20 minute walk if I don't do any other exercise. Report
I have an Australian shepherd and I run her just to try to tire her out. She's insane! www.harrietmay.com/ninja Report
My dog is lazier than I am. She has channeled her inner empress and expects to be carried everywhere. If you leave her on all 4's she puts 2 paws up on you , softens her eyes and all but says,"PLEASE". Report
I don't have pets, but I would love to have a dog. If I had a dog it would definitely motivate me to exercise, just because you HAVE to go and walk with it! Report
I love cats and they don't like to go for a walk. Report
my dog gives me that look - you know the one "you've been outside all day with people and I've been stuck inside all day waiting for you to come home. The least you can do is take me out for a few minutes. I don't care if it's raining or you're tired.. take me for my walk!" Dogs can say a whole lot with one look! Report
Personally, exercise motivation isn't enough to motivate me to get a dog--I'm away from home too much to be responsible for a dog at home. Butt if a dog is an option in other ways, they are great workout buddies. Report
MY dog Buddy and I go out every day, in any kind of weather. While I might not do it for me, I do it for him because I know that is what he needs. And at the same time I benefit, too! Report
Absolutely! They (well, and my husband) are my constant running partners! Living in an apartment with two high-energy, fun-loving dogs (standard schnauzers Murphy and Molly), they need their almost-daily runs to keep us all healthy and happy. There are definitely days when I go out only for them... but halfway through the run, the big guy looks up at me with the hugest grin, and it's totally worth it :) Report
Absolutely. I don't know if I'd call it "motivation" but more a necessity. Owning a dog is a big responsibility and three walks a day, regardless of breed and/or size, should be the norm. Never in a million years would I wake up early to head outside in all sorts of weather (rain, too) for a walk/run if it weren't for our dog. I love her and owe it to her to see that she gets the appropriate exercise she needs and wants. Report
Yes Yes Yes!!! My dog whines until I decide to go outside. Then when he sees his green leach, he starts jumping up and down. He is so excited to go for a walk. It has surely helped me to keep my goals. Thanx Max!! Report
Yes, my dog keeps me motivated. That is one of the reason I welcome my dog, Sara into my life. She is my walking buddy. We bring her to work with us. Before I never would take a break from work, but now Sara reminds me to take her for a walk. Yes it can be a pain when the weather is below zero or rainy but I dress for the weather. When it is nice out I find myself taking longer walks with her. Report
Yay, I walk my 4 dogs everyday (except in rain or snow). We vary the walk depending on my time, but they always get a walk. Even my older dog perks up at walk time. Report
My dogs do motivate me not only to get out and walk but to enjoy it and go farther than I would alone. They are also a great warm and fuzzy support team!

So many dog lovers/walkers on here! I have a 12-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel (whose name is also Ginger!), and until last summer she was a great walking buddy. However, she is now too old and gets too tired after 1/2 mile walk (she used to walk 2 - 3 miles with me a few times a week!), so I miss our walks together, and she whines when I leave without her. But the vet advised that we cut back on our walks, b/c of her health (she also has a heart issue). I am envious of those here who can take walks/runs with their pets! Report
Dogs aren't the only four-legged pets! My horses motivate me to get out and ride, because if they don't get rode, they get fat & out of shape, just like me! Report
We can not use the word 'walk' if we're not ready to leave. Saysha even gets excited if we put on our walking sneakers. Our favorite walk is along the river in our local State Park and if for some reason we go past the entrance road, she wilts. She is the best walking buddy ever and a day without a walk is a total waste to her. Report
I love my dog walks every day! It makes you go when you might feel you don't want too and I always come back feeling great. Having a dog is a great responsibility. They must have lots of exercise to stay happy and healthy. Ours has at least two hours a day, often more, spread over morning and evening walks. Report
Yes my dog motivates me to walk. He loves taking long walks and I try to do it everyday Report
I walk a lot more whenever I'm dog-sitting. Since we have cats, I often borrow dogs from neighbors and friends to take out for walks, and always make sure dog owners know I am available! Report
I don't have a pet, and cats are my favorite. I do know a number of people who own dogs but don't take them for walks regularly. Last year, I tried to make a weekly outing of helping my friends walk their 3 Bassett Hounds. We each had one, and I went to a local Lagoon for the first time. It was fun, but they (doggie owners) weren't into the activity.

If I had a dog, I'd definitely use it for additional exercise.
But I like cats better. :) Purrrr.

Jocelyn Report
After we lost Shamrock, our dog of 13 years, we ended up at a shelter and went home with Finnegan. In order to deal with my grief over losing my precious pooch, I walked Finnegan every day. He's a very high-energy dog and needed to be walked anyway, but it was two-fold. He needed it for exercise and I needed it to help with my grieving. Week after week this went by, and new habits started to form. I found myself looking forward to our walks, both in the morning and after work. And if it rained, I was just as ticked as the dog (if there wasn't any lightning, off we went to go splash in the rain anyway!) He is my biggest motivating source for exercising. My mind can try to talk me out of it, but I look at that face of his and realize we both need our walk, no excuses. It's been an incredible blessing to me. Report
I love my dogs.... and they love to go for walks, but they are slow only because I just started and this is all knew to them. When it's time for to roll out the mat for floor exercises, by the time I get my stuff together they are both laying on it with thier toys ready to play ....how could I resist how wonderful they are and helpful ..... "Big brown eyes brings lots of smiles" Report
Walking the dog has always been my job. I had my Lucy for almost 13 years when she had a stroke in March of 2010. She was my pal. We have another dog (Phred) that belongs to my husband but I have always been the one to walk & feed him. I think he likes me better now. I will always have a dog because I know how much they love to be part of the family. You know they are waiting for their daily walks and give you unconditional love in return. Report
We adopted a wonderful old dog two years ago from the pound. He's around 13 now and recently I've found that he's not walking as far as he used to with me, he seems to be stopping to sniff the ground a lot more. So I've changed my walking to a good hour in the morning when he's not stiff and then I go out without him and speed walk to get home and play with him to make it up to him. My husband and I are totally devoted to him, his name is Dave and he's a wonderful mixed up terrier, border collie and probably more...super smart and he grunts when he wants us to go out with him. We don't go anywhere without him and walk him whenever we stop to shop too. He has definitely been a positive influence on our lives and that was why I got him....that and he's just so darned cute! Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.