More Than a Walk: Fitness for You and Your Pet

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None of us are free from fighting the battle of the bulge, including our beloved pets. Veterinarians often advise a dietary solution for our felines and canines if they’re above average weight or to help prevent weight-related diseases, suggesting that as an owner you change their eating habits. Sometimes a change in diet will do the trick.

But simply restricting their diet might not be the best or only solution. Pets, just like humans, don’t give up their favorite foods very easily. And taking away their dishes could leave them in a lurch wondering if they did something wrong. Proper physical fitness for your pets encourages a healthy environment not just for them, but for both of you. Spending quality time with your pets and exercising with them creates a bond that establishes trust, continuous support and, of course, a healthy lifestyle!

From canine training groups to workout gear made specifically for pets, there’s a variety of ways you can make the most of time with your pet. Go Fetch Run, a group that provides New Yorkers opportunities to work out alongside their dogs, aims to strengthen both the physical and mental bond between pup and owner. Go Fetch Run began with the simple yet significant thought of combining the time you spend with your pet with exercise you already normally do. Since so many runners, walkers, cyclists and more get out to public parks and areas to exercise, why not pair up with like-minded dog owners to mix everything into one?

Programs across the country such as Go Fetch Run, Barking Boot Camp and K9 Fit Club’s Boot Camp offer specific scheduled classes to challenge both you and your dog. Classes feature obstacle courses and more to encourage fun movement and strength training. Your dog will love the outdoor exercise and getting to know new friends, humans and canine alike. Group exercising with animals can be done just as easily within your own neighborhood or community. Set a schedule, make sure participants and dogs have the proper fitness gear, and enjoy the benefits of outdoor exercise with your two and four-legged friends.

As with any form of exercise, it’s important to have the right equipment. As fitness technology advances for us, it does so for our pets. Perhaps you’ve found success with Fitbit for yourself and wish your pup had the same sort of daily tracker. Some forward-thinking dog owners were passionate about the same thing and invented FitBark, an activity monitor that measures your dog’s daily activity and lends insight to its health behaviors and trends. You can use FitBark on other pets too, but since the it’s made specifically for dogs, it doesn’t necessarily provide the most useful information. Voyce Health Tracker is another device that specifically tracks your dog’s respiratory rate and heart rate through a sensor using low-frequency radio waves. It takes readings when the dog is at rest, allowing the owner and veterinarian to monitor health conditions early without the stress of a visit to the vet. A small and simple GPS tracker attached to your cat’s collar could give you great indication as to how much movement your furry friend gets each day. These devices also work double duty, so you know where your pet is at all times.

Not every animal needs the same exercise or tracking, and often old-fashioned exercise without technology gives you both a break from the craziness of a typical day. Using the right leash helps you maintain control of your dog at the right pace and position, beside you or slightly behind you. Bungee leashes stretch and are gentle against Fido’s neck; they can be worn around your waist so running is easier than ever, as it spreads your dog’s pulling force at your center of gravity. The Bright Light Leash™ and Bright Light Collar™ feature LED lighting and reflective stitching to make walking or running at night safer.

You can also attach a leash directly to your bicycle frame with WalkyDog. Light and easily installed on any bike and combined with a padded harness, this solution is great for the family; simply trade it out between bicycles so everyone gets a chance to take the dog on a ride. As usual, use good judgment, follow the rules of the road, ride at your dog’s pace and use appropriate safety equipment.

Time spent with your pet is invaluable for both of you, and promoting a healthy lifestyle can extend your time together. Just like any member of your family, your furry friend wants to spend time doing things you both love. Check out local opportunities to get moving, or keep adding your pet to daily or weekend activities such as a trip to the lake, a hike or just a bike ride around your neighborhood. ■

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