Monday, January 25, 2010

The benefits of exercising with my dog.

In my last couple blogs I've introduced the concept of Push Ups n PawS, or exercising with your dog, and given a sample "core" routine.  In this blog I'd like to talk more about the benefits of exercising with your dog, and give you some tips on getting started. 

Lets start with one of the most important benefits, better health for you and your dog. To not mince words, overweight and obesity is considered epidemic  in both people and their pets.  The Center for Disease Control reports that over half of the population is either overweight or obese.  Roughly 40% of the adults in the United States do not participate in any leisure time activities, and less than 1/3 engage in the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity per day. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that 44% of our dogs are either overweight or obese.  OK, OUCH! That may have hurt to read.

The good news is, The Office of the Surgeon General reports that physical activity in conjuction with calorie reduction contributes to weight loss, and that regular physical activity is extremely helpful in the prevention of overweight and obesity and maintaining a healthy weight.

In addition to weight control, regular exercise has been shown to prevent heart disease, control cholesterol levels and diabetes, slows bone loss, lowers risks of certain cancers and helps reduce anxiety and depression. The positive health benefits of regular exercise are almost identical for both you and your dog.  So through exercise you can improve your health, and your dogs'.

Another benefit is a stronger bond between you and your dog, and increased obedience training.  A well-trained and socialized dog is more likely to be viewed as a family member, and to be included in family outings and activities.  These dogs are welcome at the youth soccer or softball game, or on family vacations.  The dog that has not been trainined or socialized is either left at home during family outings, or boarded at a care facility during vacations.

One of the last benefits I'll mention is the savings in cost and time.  With todays tough economic times to pay for a gym membership and/or personal trainer is expensive.  In addition, dog training classes can be costly.  To be able to combine the two saves both time and money.  I find public parks the best areas to exercise in as they have a lot of features to aid in body weight exercises.  They are free, and if you have children they can play in the park while you exercise!

There is little special equipment needed.  GOOD tennis shoes - buy these from an experienced sales person at a store or depatment specializing in atheletic shoe sales.  Your feet are your foundation, ill-fitting tennis shoes can lead to numerous injuries or aches.  Workout clothes for the weather.  A leash for your dog and water for both. 

I would like to caution that this is not for everyone, nor all dogs.  If you have any health concerns, check with your doctor before starting any physical activity.  The same applies to your dog, if they are overweight or obese, or have health concerns, check with your vet before starting them on an exercise routine.  Always start slow, and gradually increase the time and intensity that you workout.  If your dog has moderate to severe behaviorial issues such as aggression, seek the advice and of a local dog training professional.  In the next blogs I'll give some tips on basic obedience commands, and show how to use some of the features found in most parks to blend effective body weight exercises and cardio routines. 

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