Resolve to Get Healthier With Your Dog
What’s a New Year without a resolution? Here’s mine: I am going to get more exercise, and I will include my dog Apollo whenever possible.
Apollo and I have both suffered through an extremely busy year. The main casualty has been our waistlines. You know how it goes; when life gets hectic the first thing that gets jettisoned is the exercise regimen. Instead of getting out for our regular walks, I’ve been cramming in more work or family time and Apollo has been napping… a lot (he’s snoring in his crate as I write).
So now that most of the holiday craziness is behind us, I’m going to start getting out with Apollo again. I’m not setting any rigid goals that I will inevitably fall short of. I am just rearranging my schedule and making my walks with Apollo a priority.
Exercise has everything to do with animal and human health, and in my opinion brisk walking is one of the best forms of exercise out there. It requires no membership dues or fancy equipment—just a decent pair of shoes and a leash if you’re bringing your dog with you. The risk of injury is minimal and you can set your pace based on your fitness level.
According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help people to:
- lower "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL)
- raise "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL)
- lower blood pressure
- manage or reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
- control weight
- improve mood
- increase strength and fitness
Walking also has benefits for canine physical and mental health. Walking helps dogs stay slim, maintain cardiovascular fitness, and improves muscle tone and flexibility, and the mental benefits of regular exercise are undeniable. As veterinarians and behaviorists like to say, “A tired dog is a good dog.”
If your dog displays anxiety, destructive behavior, attention-seeking behavior, hyperactivity, or is just difficult to manage, try increasing the amount of time he or she spends out on walks and see what happens.
If you’re not convinced of the physical and mental upsides of going for a walk with your dog, check out the book The Health Benefits of Dog Walking for Pets & People: Evidence and Case Studies, edited by Rebecca Johnson, Alan Beck, and Sandra McCune.
Don’t have a dog? Taking your cat, ferret, rat chinchilla, etc. out for a walk in a pet stroller would surely have similar benefits—at least for you.
Caring for animals (either as a veterinarian, technician, or owner) is often physically and emotionally demanding. After a tough day it’s usually best to ignore the temptation to crash on the couch and get outside for some exercise instead. In a pinch, indoor exercise will do, but there is something special about being outdoors with your pet.
So that’s my resolution. What’s yours? If you don’t have one, why don’t you join me out on the trails with your dog?
Dr. Jennifer Coates