Much like humans, the benefits of Exercise to our furry family members reaps many rewards, both psychologically and physically. Granted, you probably shouldn’t expect Buddy or Bandit to deadlift twice their bodyweight, but a healthy pup is a happy pup!
NOTE : This post will mainly talk about exercise, not nutrition or supplementation. We’ll save that for a later article!
As a fitness nut (weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, I love it all!), exercise is an extremely important part of my life. Believe me, waking up at 3:30am to hit the gym, making sure I can set up shop at one of the 3 available racks isn’t exactly for someone who doesn’t love the hustle and grind. But I do it (mostly because it aligns with my schedule) because it keeps me healthy, happy, and less-stressed through the day. And the very same benefits extend to pups when they get some exercise!
Exercise is a pretty blanket term, and encompasses a wide area of activity. Some great activities include :
- Dog Parks
- Playing (i.e. throwing the ball or Frisbee)
Let’s start with Walks and Hikes!
Walking has many things working in its favor – it’s convenient, less impact on joints, low cost, basic in nature, improves insulin sensitivity, etc. The last one is extremely important, as it is the least physically evident. Insulin sensitivity is one of the major causes of adult onset diabetes, and while diabetes may not manifest in the same way in animals, the effects are similar (like weight gain or becoming lethargic.) Taking a step back, what’s the first thing we do after we eat a meal, especially if it’s a large one? Typically, we sit down and relax. Probably not the wisest idea, as the food just sits there like a rock. Getting up and walking (even if it’s for 10 mins) after a meal has been proven to help digestion, which in turn improves nutrient partioning (a fancy way of saying that available carbs have a better chance of being turned into glycogen for muscles, instead of stored as fat). Again, we’ll talk about nutrition and items like this in a future post.
Hiking is another great activity. Find a nearby mountain, and go to town on that thing! The fresh air, uneven trails, foreign smells, etc. must be like a drug to dogs! I’ve NEVER seen a dog get out of a car, at a mountain range or park, and look all sad sack. They are running around, tails swinging back and forth, tangling you up in their leashes. It never fails!
Moving to Dog Parks and Playing!
Who doesn’t like Dog Parks?! It’s one of the few places where you can let your dog run free, without a collar, and be themselves. If there’s other like-minded or similar temperament pups there, all the better! Games of chase, running around, and more! These are great activities for your dog! It helps them socialize with other dogs, other people, and tires them out. I imagine it’s a similar chemical reaction to weightlifting – dopamine is released and the brain is flooded with the “feel-goods”. The constant back and forth with running around, especially in short bursts, is exactly like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) for humans – short bursts of intense activity, coupled with a brief pause. Activities like these are great for helping your pup shed those holiday ounces (or pounds, if they had too many Yam Treats!)
Having some 1-on-1 time with your pup by throwing a ball or Frisbee is special too. It reinforces the bond you have with him (or her!) That’s a big benefit to him, and you as well! The constant back and forth, running around, playing chase because he won’t drop the Frisbee…it’s a workout for everyone. 🙂
Obviously, there’s a ton of benefits to exercise. And a lot more than what’s listed here, as far as physically and psychologically. But the greatest part of exercise, in my opinion, is sharing that time and experience with my pups. Walks and play-time are not just rewarding for your dogs, but you’ll get something positive out of it too!