It is a well-known fact that regular physical activity is good for your health. A lesser known fact is that is it not just good for you individually, your physical activity positively influences the physical activity and health of others around you, even your pet! Here are a few ways to consider working out with your pet, to make sure you both get to live a long, healthy life.
Consider your pet as a workout buddy
This may be more realistic for some pets and breeds over others, but incorporating your pet is a great way to have fun and encourage you to exercise. There is the classic walk or run, or even the hike, to get you both outside. For smaller dogs (or even some cats) they also make running strollers or hiking backpacks for animals to incorporate your smaller pets into the outdoors safely. Some other ways to include your pet are incorporating a tennis ball or Frisbee. You can hit or toss the object for your own work out while playing fetch for your dog. Then there is the more untraditional exercises, like adding your pet into your yoga session (doga – it’s a thing!) or floor work out. With a trained dog, you can do handshakes while you hold a plank, squat, or push-up. You can have your dog lay down and sit up with you between crunches, or keep them close and still while you complete exercises and reward them with some treats, hugs, and a cool down walk between circuits or at the end of a workout.
Help your pet to help you
Research suggests that individuals who exercise with a pet are more likely to stick to their fitness routine (1). Regular walks may help with pet behavior problems, along with improving their heart health, just like it does for your blood pressure, bone density and mental health. Much like humans, it is always good to check with the doctor before starting an exercise program for your pet, and start low while slowly building a routine. Be sure to keep other factors like temperature, terrain, hydration, and comfort in mind for your pet too.
We all need exercise
Cats need exercise as a part of their mental stimulation and play, dogs need to expend energy, and even smaller pets of hamsters/gerbils have their wheels (2). This exercise or play time is an important part of socialization for your animal and can contribute to your bond with your pet. Think of the size of the animal to influence the duration and intensity of your exercise. Ten minutes may be enough with your cat, but your dog may need 30 or more minutes.
- Dog owners have a 24% reduced risk for death from any cause. Those with heart problems saw an even greater benefit to pet ownerships (3).
- Walking your dog 20-30 minutes a day allows you to meet American Heart Association physical activity recommendations of (75-150 min/week) of moderate to vigorous physical activity
Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more see the Adult Fitness Program website.
10 workouts to do with your dog. Elite Sports Clubs. (n.d.). https://eliteclubs.com/10-workouts-to-do-with-your-dog/.
Flowers, A. (Ed.). (2021, July 17). Exercising with your dog. WebMD. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/ss/slideshow-exercising-with-your-dog.
Kramer, C. K., Mehmood, S., & Suen, R. S. (2019). Dog ownership and survival. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 12(10). https://doi.org/10.1161/circoutcomes.119.005554