The health benefits of working out with your dog
A dog’s favorite pastime is a good game of fetch. Get creative by adding a strength training exercise whenever your dog retrieves the ball.
Could you use a workout buddy? Having a reliable fitness friend increases your likelihood of maintaining motivation and consistency with your workout program. These two fitness factors are crucial components for long-term adherence and success with your wellness goals.
When considering which cardio companion to team up with, don’t forget to put your pooch at the top of the list.
Pets have the power to make you healthier. Time spent with your furry friend reduces stress, eases feelings of loneliness and depression, boosts confidence to socialize with new friends, and provides ample opportunities throughout the day to exercise. And just as staying fit is vital to your health, it’s equally as essential for your dog’s well-being, too. Dogs are highly trainable and loyal, so they will wag their tail in approval at any aerobic adventure you want to explore. And check with your vet to make sure you don’t overtax your dog, especially if he or she is older or heat sensitive.
Get fit with Fido by trying these dog-friendly workout ideas:
Canine cardio. Aerobic exercise keeps the heart healthy, enhances lung endurance, fortifies the bones, lowers blood pressure, and reduces extra weight around your waistline. Your body craves cardio. And since your dog needs to be walked at least once a day, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to engage in aerobic activities together.
To start, aim for 30-minute walk. For those in a time crunch, you can break this into two, 15-minute increments. A midday stroll will burn off stress, stretch the legs, improve circulation, and promote better mental health. Alternatively, an evening walk can aid in digestion.
If your dog is high energy and requires a more intense outing, try running for 15 minutes. Just be sure to stay within your aerobic level -- and that of your dog, too.
Hound hike. Hitting the trails is an excellent way to lean your legs, build lower body strength, and support better cardiovascular health. The uneven terrain also helps boost your balance and core power.
Hiking is also an ideal for those who grow bored easily while working out. The constant change of scenery will keep you feeling engaged and excited about exercise. Plus you’ll have your playful pup by your side every step of the way, encouraging you to forge ahead when, perhaps, you wouldn’t go the extra mile alone.
Try trekking for at least 20 minutes, remembering to wear proper footwear and to bring a walking stick if needed for balance. Give your leash a lot of slack while walking to prevent your pup from pulling you over the rocky terrain. (And no matter how obedient your dog is, do curb any temptation to let him or her off the leash. Others don’t know you have a perfect pup, or you might encounter another critter that sparks an unfortunate response.)
A game of fetch. A dog’s favorite pastime is a good game of fetch. And this back-and-forth frolic can be beneficial for you too.
Get creative by adding a strength training exercise whenever your dog retrieves the ball. A playful pup will jump for joy watching you move around between throws, which will quickly eliminate any sense of hard work from your workout. Here are two exercises to try in your backyard or at a nearby park.
Ruff, ruff, reverse lunge twist
Hold a ball or dog toy with your right hand and extend it out in front of your body.
Take a step back with your left leg and twist your torso to the right. Allow your gaze to follow your hands to ensure your entire upper body rotates.
As you twist back to the front, toss the toy for your dog. Step through your right heel to bring your feet together and stand. Each time your dog returns the ball, perform one rep and switch sides as you go. Aim for 10 repetitions per leg.
Mutt side strut
Grab a ball from your dog and take four fast lateral shuffles to the right. Stay low and keep your toes forward-facing with each step.
Toss the ball with your right hand after your fourth step, then quickly shuffle four counts to the left. When your dog returns the ball, toss it with your left hand to improve your hand-eye coordination and strengthen your less dominant side (whether that’s your right or left). Continue this side shuffle sequence for 10 minutes to get your heart rate elevated and muscles moving.
Sometimes the body just needs a little puppy love.
Ashley Blake Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in South Jersey. To learn more about her virtual training program, go to ashleyblakefitness.com.