Any gym rat can attest to the fact that it’s better to work out with a buddy. It keeps you on track, motivates you to lace up your sneakers, and takes the monotony out of an otherwise boring solo treadmill session. But what about working out with your other best friend?
When you re-commit to your health goals alongside your most supportive companion, you both reap the benefits. Studies show that people with canine companions are 34% more likely to get their recommended amount of weekly exercise in than those without pets, and the emotional connection we feel when we’re with our dogs also gives our workouts an extra boost. Dogs benefit from regular exercise too, as canine obesity can significantly impact their overall health and quality of life.
There are plenty of ways to combine real exercise (not just a requisite morning walk) with quality puppy time, so stick to your favorite activity or try a new workout every week. Always remember to bring along enough water for both of you to protect your pup from dehydration.
1. Yoga (or “Doga”)
Yes, this is a thing. Doggie yoga, or doga, was created by yogi Suzy Teitelman in 2001 and has been booming in popularity ever since. Enthusiasts talk about the benefits of doga in the same way regular yogis do: it’s a solid 45 minutes of quiet and calm (something we don’t get a lot of in our daily lives) that allows you and your dog to reconnect. Dogs like to stretch as it is — we often see them in yogi poses after naps — and doga provides mutual stretching time. It can come with other benefits too; doga dogs are more open to being touched, which can help with grooming sessions and vet visits. It also teaches pups to calm down more easily, which can be great for more rambunctious dogs who maybe don’t love bath time.
Not the most coordinated athlete? When it comes to a soccer match with your dog, coordination is optional. The goal here is just running, getting your dog to follow, and maybe having them nudge the ball back. Do a series of sprints: kick the ball and run after it, pup in tow. You can also try for a down-field dribble and encourage your dog to attempt a steal. It even works with a second human in the mix — one of you chases, while your dog runs with the other. Great cardio (and bonding) for all.
Much like soccer, your pup can act as a ball boy while you’re practicing and retrieve those missed serve tosses for you. This is great for any size dog (while smaller ones may have some difficulty maneuvering, say, a soccer ball). Insider tip: keep a few extra tennis balls on hand in case of slobber. A wet ball doesn’t bounce!
An age old classic, this activity provides an arm workout, cardio, and endurance training all in one. Throwing frisbees, especially heavier ones made for Ultimate Frisbee, is a great upper body workout and a dog favorite. Try tossing with both arms at once and see how many you can throw — and how many your dog will bring back!
Low-level, short-distance hikes are a great form of exercise for both you and your dog. More cardio than a normal walk but less taxing than a run, hikes also allow you both to get in a little nature time. New scenery for you, new smells for your pooch!
Swimming is known to be one of the best full-body, low-impact workouts for anyone, dogs included. They call it the doggie paddle for a reason! Hit the lake or beach for some laps before it gets too chilly (depending on the weather where you live), and train your pup to follow if he’s comfortable swimming. If he needs a bit of extra incentive, you can try using a ball for him to retrieve. This is great for older dogs with joint issues.
7. Sprints (Doggie Dash)
Going on long runs with your dog can be a great form of exercise if he or she has the endurance, but not all dogs have the stamina (or body) for prolonged runs. An alternative is to try sprints, which provide a quick and powerful cardio workout. Just make sure to rest in between sets and keep water on hand for your dog.
8. Biking & Blading
Rollerblading or biking instead of walking is an easy way to step (and spice) up your daily routine. Just be sure your dog is capable of covering longer distances before you start blading an hour from home.
9. Long Walks On The Beach
A romantic move no matter what season, walking on sand also builds core strength and works muscles that would otherwise get little use. If you want to take it up a notch, have your dog chase some waves (and make sure to pack a towel for the ride home).
10. Stand-Up Paddle Board
Already one of the best core workouts, “SUP-ing” (a little insider lingo for you!) gets even better if you bring your canine friend on board. Your dog will add a little extra weight while enjoying a scenic ride. Just be sure your pup isn’t too anxious, as a tipped board is no fun for anyone to get back on.