By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer
Your dog relies on you to feed him nutritious food and take him to the vet for regular check-ups, but a lot of dog behavior is naturally healthy. You can learn a lot by watching what your pet does every day.
Obviously dogs don't use alarm clocks, but they also don't jump out of bed as soon as they wake up. Instead, they yawn widely and stretch out their bodies from nose to tail. You can do the same thing. Instead of leaping right out of bed, take a few minutes to stretch your arms over your head. Then gently push yourself up and swing your legs over the side of the bed. As you slowly stand, reach your hands toward the floor to stretch your legs and back. You can even imitate your pet and move into a yoga pose called downward facing dog, which is a great full-body stretch.
No matter what the weather is like most dogs are always willing to walk. All you have to do is pick up the leash, and suddenly your four-legged fitness buddy is by your side, ready to go. Next time you're not quite feeling up to your daily walk, try putting on your workout clothes and lacing up your sneakers. By the time you're finished, you'll be in the mindset to hit the road. Walking is the easiest form of fitness to incorporate into your life and its benefits are many. A consistent walking program will protect your heart, strengthen your bones, help you control your weight and improve your mood.
You fill your dog's bowl and she's at your feet, dancing around waiting for you to put it back on the floor. But once there, she's totally focused on that bowl, eating with abandon and ignoring everything else until she feels full. Dogs don't watch TV, pay bills or surf the Internet while they eat; they focus on the food and not much else. When they're full, they stop eating and go back to following you around or playing with a ball. You should do the same. When you focus on eating without distractions, you're more likely to realize when you're getting full and stop before you overeat. You'll also enjoy your food more when you pay attention to its taste and texture.
While we don't have the luxury of a dog's empty schedule, we can learn to listen to our natural energy pattern, rather than fighting it all the time. Instead of staying up past midnight glued to your phone or computer, shut everything down and go to bed early for a change. If you're not getting eight hours of sleep a night, try making some small changes to make healthy sleep a priority. And never feel guilty for grabbing a quick weekend or after-work nap! If you feel tired, that means you need to get more sleep.
When you come home from a walk, your dog happily laps up as much cool water as she needs. You never give your dog soda or energy drinks--and you don't need them either. What you do need is plenty of water. Besides keeping you hydrated, water is crucial for regulating body temperature, helping muscles function and transporting nutrients around the body. Drinking enough water will also help you control hunger!
Dogs of all ages enjoy playtime. Instead of going to the gym and slogging away on the elliptical machine, your pup burns off energy (and excess calories) by chasing a ball or catching a Frisbee. There's no reason why you can't approach fitness as less about work and more about fun. Change up your normal fitness routine by joining a local sports league (like kickball or softball) or trying a hip-hop dance class. Here are eight more ways you can bring out your inner child to make exercise more fun.
Dogs love a routine. They never tire of doing the same thing over and over again. In fact, dogs thrive with a steady routine they can count on. Wake up, go outside for a walk, eat breakfast, bark at the mailman, nap, chew on your favorite toy...and so on. When you create a routine of healthy habits that you repeat every day, soon they'll become second nature. Over time it will get easier and easier to make good choices because it won't be a choice—it'll be a habit.
While it's great to exercise every day and to push yourself to achieve new goals, your body also needs plenty of rest. When you take your dog to the park and he plays for hours, running at top speed and wrestling with other canines, you know he'll sleep the rest of the day. He's just listening to his body and his body knows it needs to rest. To achieve optimal fitness, you need to do the same. It's during rest and recovery time that your body actually gets stronger and fitter, so build at least one or two days of rest into your fitness routine every week.
Dogs love treats. Some think carrot sticks are delicious, while others drool over bacon-flavored biscuits. When you let your dog have a treat, she isn't thinking about the calories or whether it's a good or bad food. She eats without guilt. Occasional treats can be part of your healthy eating plan, too. In order to develop a healthy relationship with food, you should allow these once-in-awhile splurges.
Dogs always have a way of finding that one sunny spot to lay in, indoors or out. While they love the extra warmth, you can use this is a reminder that you need to get at least 10 minutes of sun three times a week in order for your body to produce enough vitamin D, which is crucial for bone health, and has also been show to help prevent cancer, control inflammation, and support the immune system. Spending time outdoors (and in the sun) can also help ward off depression or seasonal blues and is correlated with higher health and happiness.
Usually a dog is content to walk beside you or lope around the park at an easy pace. But once in a while, they'll surprise us and take off at top speed, chasing another dog or a flying ball. When they finish, they're breathing so hard it often looks like they're smiling. There are many health and fitness benefits you can glean from quick bursts of speed. When mixed with slower periods of exercise and repeated, you've got yourself a great interval training workout. It's easy to add intervals to your walking, running and cycling workouts!
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