Fitness Articles

Exercising with Your Dog

Pets Can Help Improve Your Health & Fitness

132SHARES
You come home from a long day at work, ready to put your feet up and relax for a while. When you open the door to find your furry friend waiting, hoping that it’s time for a walk or a game of fetch, what do you do? Do you ignore the wagging tail, those big eyes, and that look of excitement? Of course not! You decide that relaxing can wait, and you head out with Fido for a little activity.

You know that exercise is good for you. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, sleep better, and increase your energy level. The great thing is that activity does the same for your pets! Not only will exercise help them live longer, but an exercising animal is also more alert and more content. Some people believe that their pets misbehave to get even for being left alone; but in reality, the cause is usually boredom from lack of exercise. Many other behavior problems like chewing, digging, and barking go away once the animal starts getting regular activity.

Some recent studies have shown a link between pet ownership and better health. A dog, for example, becomes a stimulus for exercise. Therefore, pet owners tend to have better cardiovascular fitness levels than people without pets. One study, for example, showed that dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week--that's nearly double the 168 minutes of walking that people without dogs usually do. In addition, pets have been shown to reduce anxiety, be a source of physical contact and comfort, and decrease feelings of loneliness and depression.

Exercising with your dog is a great time saver! Whether you like to run, walk, or play in the backyard with your pet, you can get your own workout at the same time. Although walking is probably the most common activity, there are other opportunities for exercise that you may not have thought of—hiking, backpacking, jogging, swimming, and rollerblading (be careful!) can all be done with pets in tow. Many sporting goods stores now carry items such as canine backpacks, hands-free leashes (to make jogging easier), and life vests to protect pets in the water.

Just as it would be hard for you to go out and jog for 45 minutes if you haven’t worked out in 6 months, it’s also hard for your pet. Be sure to get your veterinarian’s okay before beginning your pet’s exercise routine. After you get the go-ahead, here are some tips to help you get started:
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

  • I so wish that I was not allergic to animals. I always had dogs as well as cats. Now I feel like I'm doomed to live on 2-3 allergy pills a day. When the DR. told me that I thought he was crazy. Well I outlived my dog and I am pretty sure that one of my cats is banking on out living me. LOL! Dogs are such great fun for exercising. I really loved my boxer, my lab and golden retriever. - 7/12/2014 9:19:54 PM
  • I've only owned dogs when I have lived in houses with large, fenced yards, so I've never *needed* to take my dogs for walks. Then I started taking the two dogs I have now for walks about a month ago, mainly because they would cry and wait for me by the gate when I started going on walks myself as part of my overall lifestyle revamp.

    Man! Talk about a difference! The enthusiasm the pups have when they realize we're going for a walk is the best possible positive reinforcement I could ask for. It transforms "boring excercise" into "a wonderful adventure and bonding experience".

    I couldn't ask for better work-out partners, or a better way to stay motivated!
    - 7/10/2014 4:32:47 PM
  • I have been walking my various dogs for the last 30 years, usually around 3 times a day. I am now on my third dog that I have been taking for regular walks, every single day, rain or shine! I crocheted my current dog a few sweaters since his fur is thin so he won't get cold in the winter, and when we walk and he gets tired I carry him (he weighs less than 15 pounds) so I get an upper body workout sometimes too! We take one long walk in the morning, another long walk in the afternoon, and a short one at night. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I couldn't walk my dog - it helps with the arthritis in my hip! At night I bring a small flashlight with! - 10/7/2013 12:56:25 PM
  • my dog and I are usually out 3 times a day during the week, more often and/or longer walks on the weekends. we've tried jogging together but its not always workable as he tends to cross in front of me and at 90ish pounds and his back at the height of my mid-thigh it can get a little hairy!
    btw he has very short hair, being a greyhound mix, and doesn't do so well in the heat... - 7/19/2013 9:16:13 AM
  • My little buddy runs with me every day. Lately we've been very happy to discover people who run their sprinklers early in the morning for him to cool off in. - 7/18/2013 10:01:15 AM
  • I LOVE walking my dogs and enjoy my walks more if I have my dog with me. Since I love walking with dogs so much when I was looking to adopt a new friend I looked for a sturdy medium size dog that will enjoy walking with me and he really does! I don't walk in bad weather.... but I'm waiting on my treadmill to come and I want to teach my doggie to walk on the treadmill too! - 1/13/2013 10:30:35 PM
  • I take my dog jogging with me - and she is definitely calmer and better behaved afterwards. Having a big, energetic dog like I do (she's a malinois crossed with a lupo italiano) definitely motivates you, becaus even if I really don't want to go anywhere, I know that she does and would feel too guilty not to take her... Only thing is in the summer, it gets really hot here and she struggles, despite me getting up at sunrise when it's cooler. - 11/16/2012 6:50:10 AM
  • My dogs are small and get alot of excercise in the large back yard.
    I have a hard time feeding them because one will eat the other dogs food after he has left his dish. I'm not always there to pick it up right away.
    She's about 3 -5 pounds overweight so I think I'm going to start to walk them.
    I have a bad back and a hernia so I don't know how far I'll get before I come back but I am going to try. I'll let you know how it goes. - 9/15/2012 2:38:56 AM
  • Walk our 2 collies once or twice a day, will be getting another so will be 3! - 8/12/2012 2:18:05 PM
  • I love my doggy and anything that makes her happy, makes me happy. I really enjoy walking with my husband and her, AllyBear in the park. My family tries to stay in shape and that includes AllyBear!! - 8/7/2012 11:25:13 PM
  • MSCHELLEZ
    Mom moved into an apartment complex a few months ago, so her 13 year old dog now has to be walked rather than let loose to run in the yard. Since they started walking, Mom has lost a lot of weight. - 8/7/2012 8:30:06 PM
  • Since I am on the computer so MUCH with SparkPeople, these days (day 26 for me!) I made a "deal" with myself..... For every hour on the computer, 15 minutes of walking with our dog! (I am also on the computer for work). It seems to be working! & LUCY is VERY happy!!!! I also have a parekeet, but I don't know how to walk him yet! He does travel with me, though! He's a great traveler & loves Christmas Music! - 4/11/2012 8:05:35 PM
  • My dog brings my walking shoes to me if we haven't gone for our morning walk. She definitely helps keep me motivated. - 8/18/2011 1:35:56 PM
  • 2HOPE2 - it depends on your neighborhood. I walk at night often. Get one of those runners' hats with the reflective tape; New Balance has one with two little LED lights under the brim to brighten your path. Make sure to keep your dog under control all the time, because cars won't see him if he runs into the street. When it's warm and rainy, I avoid the creek areas because of snakes, who are much more active at night, so sometimes we go to a local mall with a lot of trees in the parking lot perimeter. We've even gone to the mega pet stores and just ran up and down every aisle! - 7/28/2011 12:58:03 PM
  • Nice to see that pet lovers are out walking. 12 hour shifts make a long day at home for my SPIKE, I appreciate the encouragement to get him out walking. MY question is how do people walk the dog when it is dark out.... I am not so sure about walking at those hours. - 7/22/2011 8:25:31 PM
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