Exercising with Your Dog

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Exercising with Your Dog

The days of hunting, chasing and being chased are over. Your dog doesn’t have to find his own dinner anymore, or run and hide from larger predators. Result: Big, fat, unhealthy dog who sits in the front of the TV as much as you do. Should you enroll Fido in a doggy aerobics class?

No. It’s time to help your dog get in shape by helping you get in shape. A 2004 survey by Purina of pets in five major U.S. cities found that 60 percent were moderately to severely overweight. Of these dogs and cats, 12 percent were so portly that they were suffering from weight-related health conditions, many of which can lead to an early death.

While the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for people are well-known, fitter pets also reap rewards. Dogs that get regular exercise are more relaxed, generally better behaved and have fewer problems with chewing and barking, according to MSNBC Health Editor Molly Masland.

And just like people, dogs that stay in shape and eat right have healthier hearts, more efficient respiratory systems, stronger muscles and bones, and often live longer than more sedentary pets, says Erickson.

A healthier pet benefits you too. How? Dogs can be a motivating force in your workout life by holding you accountable to your fitness goals. So says Dr. Robert Kushner, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Medical School. Kushner’s study shows that when people and their dogs exercise and diet together, both lose weight and keep it off.

In addition, having a canine buddy added variety and helped reduce the hum drum of a standard fitness routine. “Across the board, people who exercised with their dogs found it rewarding, fun and an opportunity to bond with their dog more than they ever did before,” says Kushner.

As with any exercise program, you and your dog should be checked out by a doctor/veterinarian before beginning. Your dog must start out gradually, just as you did at the beginning of your fitness journey. Start out by walking around the block and add a block each day to work up to the optimal distance.

Keep your dog’s size and breed in mind when deciding what exercise to pursue. Very small dogs aren’t good jogging partners, and dogs with pushed up noses (Pekingese, bulldogs, pugs, mastiffs) often have breathing problems, so very strenuous workouts can be dangerous.