We’ve learned that working out with a partner can make a sweat sesh fly by, but who says our workout buddy has to have opposable thumbs? Take fitness outside with Fido, and turn exercise into play. We’ve rounded up some fun (and fit) activities for when you and your pooch are totally bored of after-work walks.
Allow your pup to accompany you on a run. In case you need convincing, running is one of the best calorie burners out there and can even improve self esteemThe mental and physical health outcomes of gree exercise. Pretty, J., Peacock, J., Sellens, M., et al. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, UK. International Journal of Environmental Health Resources, 2005 Oct;15(5):319-37..
Playing fetch with Spot not only keeps him moving, but you too (when he gets greedy and turns fetch into a game of hide and go seek). As an added bonus, just being outside lowers blood pressure and the stress hormone, cortisolThe physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Park, B.J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., et al. Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan. Environmental health and preventitive medicine 2010;15(1):18-26..
Believe it or not, “Doga” — dog yoga — is a real thing. The crazy sounding fitness fad incorporates real-live dogs into humans’ yoga practice (they even act as weights and props throughout the class). Don’t quote us on this one, but maybe your dog will reap the same stress-relieving benefits as you.
Swimming is a great, low-impact activity that can help boost overall endurance for humans and their furry friends. A stint of doggie paddling can also be a fun way for dogs with joint pain to stay active. Stay in calm, waist-deep water where you can easily lift a panicked or tired dog out of danger, says pet expert Ali McLennan.
We know bodyweight exercises can do wonders by building strength and speed. But for weight-lifting on the go, turn to your pooch! We like to call this “doggie-weight” exercising. Who needs a medicine ball, anyway?
This move is like a squat throw — great for building total body explosive power. We suggest sticking to reasonably-sized dogs. (Note: We’re only sort of serious about this one.)
Playing with your dog doesn’t always have to involve throwing and fetching. Kick a ball around the yard and try and keep up with your pup (before he bites the ball and deflates it… womp, womp).
Once your pups are acclimated to the water, surfing boasts some awesome health benefits. Riding the waves makes for a high-intensity aerobic activity that’s great for conditioning the body and improving balanceAnaerobic and aerobic fitness profiling of competitive surfers. Farley, O., Harris, N.K., Kilding, A.E., Sports Performance Research Institute New Zeland, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2012 Aug;26(8):2243-8.Physiological demands of competitive surfing. Farley, O.R., Harris, N.K., Kilding, A.E., Sports Performance Research Institute, Auckalnd University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2012 Jul;26(7):1887-96.. If your dog can really surf, call us.
If the ocean is a day’s drive away, dive into the pool with a set of boogie boards and your dog (but make sure your little guy feels comfortable swimming first). All that kicking will help strengthen your legs while Fido gets a free ride.
A little SUP in the sun can work wonders for the core — the 58 different muscles between the diaphragm and the bottom of the pelvis — since it takes a whole lot of balance to stay standing on moving water. Plus, stand up paddleboarding is a fun way to cross-train outside of a gym.
Agility training may remind you of nausea-inducing drills from the high-school sports era, but its a great way to develop speed and improve coordination. Sign up your furry BFF for an agility training course, and you’ll be running right alongside him as he weaves and bobs, jumps, and soars.
We’ve said it already, but running has a bajillion health benefits (roughly speaking) from living longer to boosting memory. Add some play to your run with a cat and mouse chase (just, ya know, with a dog and a human instead).
Hitting the trails amps up low-impact walking (with added inclines and terrain changes), while jogging in the woods incorporates basic agility training with twigs and rocks acting as mini speedbumps. And spending some time with Mother Nature (and your dog) may even increase creativity.
Cycling is great for toning the quads, calves, and of course — that rear end. And while there are some risks involved when riding a two-wheeler, the health benefits generally outweigh themDo the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks? de Hartog, J.J., Boogaard, H., Hoek, G. Environmental Health Perspective, 2010 August;118(8):1109-1116.. Check out these tips to stay safe out on the road, and read up on how to safely bring your dog along for the ride.
Okay, okay. So we know your dog has to be the Lebron James of the canine world to actively play basketball with you (or Air Bud), but there’s no harm in bringing him along as your most loyal cheerleader. All that running and jumping will tucker you both out in no time.
Dogs love playing tug ‘o war, and it’ll keep you on your toes, too. Once your dog gets going, hanging on to your end of the rope can be a challenging full-body, functional workout (engage that core!).
Popping on a set of blades or skates may feel like it’s 1993, but turning your neighborhood into a roller derby is great for cardiovascular health and strengthening the quads and glutesCardiac Rehabilitation. Gonzalez, P., Cuccurullo, S., Jafri, I. et al. Ohysical Medicine and Rehabilitation Board Review. Demos Medical Publishing, 2004.. We only wish it was safe to by four mini roller blades for the family pet (though he will love running alongside you).
Photo: Natures Paparazzi
Hydration is key for both you and your dog when playing outside. Start the day off with a big glass of water, and make sure your pup drinks up before a workout too! Keep your dog’s hydration to five to ten laps of water here and there while exercising (instead of giant bowls of water in between), McLennan says.
How do you stay active with your pet when the weather’s nice? Let us know in the comment section below!