Pets enrich our lives in so many ways. They are our companions and our family. They brighten our day and enliven our homes. But did you know that owning a pet can also improve your health? Pet ownership increases your likelihood to exercise and socialize. Studies have shown that interacting with pets can lower stress-related hormones and decrease your blood pressure. A study from the American Heart Association even linked pet ownership with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Most notably, pets offer their owners an opportunity for exercise and fitness.
The CDC recommends that adults have 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Pets, dogs especially, help us achieve those exercise goals. Whether it is a 20-minute walk in the morning or a game of fetch in the backyard, pets help get us moving. A study from the UK found that dog owners spent 200 more minutes walking each week than those without dogs. Pets also keep our exercising schedule consistent. Oftentimes our exercise routine can take a back seat on our schedules, but pets help us prioritize daily activity.
If you’re looking to maximize your physical fitness as well as your pet’s, there are tons of options. Hikes and long walks are a good way to get out of the house and take in some fresh air. Depending on how comfortable your pet is, try to get them in the water. Swimming is an incredibly beneficial form of low-impact physical activity. If your dog is good at jumping, maybe try dock diving, a form of fetch where you throw toys in the water and let your dog jump in after them. For large or very active dogs, try riding a bike alongside your pet instead of walking or running. There are dozens of other opportunities for exercising, from skateboarding kitties to doggy-owner dance classes.
Like most forms of exercise, you should take precautions to ensure your and your pet’s safety. Remember to bring water for you and your pet and take your environment into account. Keep an eye on the heat during the summer months and make sure your pet isn’t walking on hot concrete or asphalt. A quick rule of thumb is the pavement test. Hold your hand palm-down on the pavement, if you can’t keep it there for seven seconds, it’s too hot to walk on. Remember that pavement can be up to 60 degrees hotter than the air temperature.
“Get outside, enjoying your day, getting some fresh air, and release those endorphins along with your pet,” said Mary Kate Cogan, a certified personal trainer at TPMG Strive Fitness and Sports Performance in Williamsburg, Virginia. The regular exercise that pets facilitate decreases your blood pressure and heart rate, improves your mood, and can help with depression and anxiety.
Our four-legged friends provide so many health benefits to our exercise level. Talk to one of TPMG’s physical trainers today to find out how you can stay active alongside your furry friend.
About Mary Kate Cogan, CPT
Mary Kate Cogan, CPT is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). Mary Kate earned her degree from Averett University in Danville, Virginia, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Personal Training. Mary Kate will always enjoy working with athletes, but she loves working with older, everyday individuals the most. Helping someone grow the confidence to perform routine tasks without the worry of falling or injuring themselves, with a simple smile in return, makes her job worthwhile. Mary Kate emphasizes that you may not be able to control all of the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
Mary Kate works at Strive Fitness and Sports Performance in Williamsburg, Virginia.