Each day I am woken up in the morning by my dog, Milly. She is my energetic, tail-wagging cheerleader who gets me up faster and with more of a jolt than any GloriaJeans house blend coffee could ever serve.
With leash in hand and Milly literally pulling me out the door, we sprint across the road to our local park. There, we play a serious game of fetch that raises my spirits and leaves us both out of breath. Quite often, dogs are our motivators for getting up and at it - and now they are being recognised as our fitness partners too.
Australian researcher, Dr Hayley Christian from The University of Western Australia, identified that people who acquired a dog increased their recreational walking by 48 minutes per week compared with an increase of only 12 minutes per week for people who did not acquire a dog during the period of the study. She also found that dog owners are more likely to meet the recommended levels of exercise than non-dog owners.* Come to think of it, I cant remember the last time Milly bailed because she was tired or could not find an outfit for our run in the park.
With one of the world’s highest rates of dog ownership, Australia is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the health benefits of owning a dog, or sharing one through pet sitting. In my opinion, a dog can do a lot more for you than any treadmill or cardiovascular machine. They will hold you accountable and provide consistency—both of which no cardio machine can ever do.
Another benefit is that dogs can help raise your energy and endorphin levels, which can literally make any stressful day more manageable. Try the Barxercise workout below. Non-dog owners can give it a try too! * Be smart and take your pet to the vet before engaging in any exercise program * Attempt to get a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise a day with your dog * Carry a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated
1. Walk this way How does burning up to 300 calories an hour sound? Good, right? Especially, if you can perform that activity with someone that will keep you motivated and always provide positive reinforcement. Take advantage of having a personal cheerleader and step outside to a healthier lifestyle.
Coach’s tip: Don't expect pooch to be a hardcore weekend warrior if you’re not putting in regular walks during the week. Start off slow so the two of you can spend time and improve your cardiovascular health together.
2. Doggy boot camp Many cities have organized doggy boot camps that meet in parks or dog runs. Owners and dogs alike can enjoy a series of calisthenics and calorie burning activities. To locate one in your area, check with your veterinarian. If there aren’t any close to home, try starting your own! Simply enlist another dog owner to join you on walks, hikes, or a run. This is a rewarding way to achieve accountability and consistency for the health of both you and your pet.
Coach’s Tip: If you have difficulty locating another dog owner, ask a dog walker or your local pet shop.
3. Chase me! Forget enlisting a personal trainer or coach to help increase your speed. Just pick up a ball or KONG toy and perform a series of cardiovascular exercises with your pooch. One in particular is what I call the shuttle run. Place two water bottles approximately 10 feet apart from each other. Then drop into a slight squat and begin side shuffling to the other bottle. Keep the dog toy in hand, while encouraging your four-legged friend to follow. Perform as many side shuffles as possible (moving back and forth between the bottles).
Coach’s tip: Even though your dog may be attempting to pull the toy out of your hand, do your best to keep your back straight by pretending that you are having ice water poured down your spine.
4. Make a Friend If you don’t have a dog but want to take advantage of a furry fitness companion, stop by your local RSPCA shelter or pet store and inquire about volunteering your time to walk a dog. Shelters love having volunteers stop by and play or walk their four-legged friends.
Coach’s tip: If you cannot locate a shelter that will allow you take a pet for a walk try your local pet shop or join online community www.PetCloud.com.au for free as a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter.
Reference: *Cutt, HE, Knuiman, MW, Giles-Corti, B, 2008, ‘Does getting a dog increase recreational walking?’, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, vol. 5. pp. 17-27.