Health Benefits of Exercise for You and Your Pet

Jan 20, 2020   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

One of the most common New Year's resolutions is to get healthy or lose weight. However, studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days.  Those who did stick to their health and weight loss goals had an exercise partner and what better partner is there than your trusty furry best friend? 

Walking is wonderful exercise for both humans and dogs and even an easily reachable goal such as a 30 minute walk a day can reduce blood pressure, aid weight loss, lower stress and anxiety and provide numerous cardiovascular benefits.  It also helps keeps joints limber and benefits digestive health.

More pets now than ever before are dealing with obesity, which can lead to joint issues, heart and lung issues, diabetes, kidney disease and a shortened lifespan.  Keeping your pet at a healthy weight will benefit your pet as well and can even increase a pet's lifespan. 

Before grabbing your pet and heading outdoors to start your exercise routine, remember young puppies and senior dogs will have their own limits. A young dog's growth plates are not fully formed until they are 18 months of age. Until then, exercising strenuously could result in joint, ligament and tendon injury. Senior dogs may not have the endurance they once had and while they can still join you on a casual walk, watch for signs of soreness or overexertion. 

Walking is great aerobic exercise for both you and your pet. In addition to keeping a healthy weight, exercise has been shown to lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and increase concentration in humans. For our pets, physical exercise allows them to burn off some of their pent up energy and reduces unwanted behaviors, such as chewing, barking and digging. A bored pet is a destructive pet and bored pets result from not having enough physical and mental stimulation. 

Daily walks not only provide great exercise but quality time together with your beloved pet. Think of the adventures! You and your pet could explore the new hiking trails, visit the park or even just take in the neighborhood. Allowing a pet to explore, stop to sniff and interact with their surroundings provides incredible mental stimulation for them as dogs live through their noses. 

 Being out and about will also help a pet with socialization and confidence building. The outdoors is a perfect time to expose your pet to things they normally wouldn't encounter – like traffic noise and bicycles.  Such opportunities are great training experiences for your pet as they can be taught and shown how to interact with new people and things and do so in a fun way. Remember, socialization doesn't mean your pet has to interact with everyone they meet, especially if they are still in training, or are just a shy pet. In actuality, forcing your pet to think they have to greet everyone they met can make training even more difficult for you, and may make leaving the house for a walk stressful for them. 

When socializing a pet, always keep in mind a pet can become overly stimulated in new situations.  A trip outdoors can mean new noises like garbage cans rolling, children screaming or cars honking, and new sites like blowing leaves and sticks lying around.  Watch to make sure your pet isn't becoming overwhelmed. We all have our breaking point, but unlike us, our pets can tell you when they are reaching the breaking point.  Watch your pet's body language closely for signs of stress and understand what situations stress your pet. An overwhelmed pet is more likely to bite. 

Unlike humans who can warn you when they are reaching their breaking point, dogs are silent, and talk more with their bodies. 

Our pets can get lonely. We have work, friends, and outings, our pets have us.  A pet doesn't want to spend their day alone. Solitary walks for us can also get lonely with little to no interactions. Our pets are social creatures are do best when with those they love. Daily walks, a round of catch or a fun at home agility course will allow us to spend quality time with our pets, decreasing loneliness in both. 

If your New Year's resolution is to get healthy or lose weight, consider adding your most faithful friend to your routine and you will not only have a better chance of achieving your goal, you will have quality time together with your pet while you and your pet enjoy the health benefits. 

 
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