5 Benefits of Outdoor Exercise with your Dog

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As a former “Northeast Coaster” now living in Southern California, I am fortunate to live in a climate that is generally warm and sunny and perfect for outdoor exercise year round. For many others, weather conditions are such that getting outdoors to exercise year round is more challenging. No matter where you live, the summer months are a good time to take advantage of the longer, warmer days and to plan on exercising outdoors, in a natural setting, with your dog.

 

Outdoor Exercise with Dogs: Observations

One of the things that I have noticed is that when I am out in the parks and trails with my dogs, I tend to feel a heightened sense of well being (and overall joy) then when we are on the streets or sidewalks. The dogs, too, seem to have a similar experience when they are out on the trails and woods. They seem happier, more aware, and completely immersed in the experience. I notice this same phenomenon when I am exercising by myself or with my human friends. There is just something extra special about being outdoors amidst the natural environment that our Earth provides. I have some theories as to why this might be true, some of which are backed by scientific research and some have yet to be proven scientifically. In any case, here are my top reasons to exercise outdoors in nature, with your dog.

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5 Reasons to Exercise Outdoors with your Dog

  1. Increased oxygen availability. Trees and plants use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Thus, when you are out in the woods or amidst vegetation, you are likely to have access to a higher concentration of oxygen then if you were indoors or in an urban area. More oxygen means a more energized and healthier body.
  2. Reduced intake of pollutants. Being close to nature and away from cars and other sources of emissions means that you and your dog are breathing better quality air.
  3. Softer surfaces mean less impact on the joints. No matter what kind of exercise you do with your dog, running, walking, strength or core drills, doing these outdoors on dirt or grass means that you are exercising on a much more forgiving surface then indoors or on a street or sidewalk. The result is less of an impact on your joints and, quite possibly, a lower chance of overuse injuries.
  4. Improved cognitive function and reduced stress and depression. There have been many studies supporting the notion that exercising in a forest or other natural setting can have direct benefits to a person’s memory, overall brain function, and even to their mood. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders by Berman, et al., suggests that simply walking in nature might be an effective treatment for major depressive disorders in humans. I have no doubt that dogs can also benefit from exercising in park like settings could be used to calm and distress dogs that might have underlying behavioral issues.
  5. Enhanced feeling of exercise induced euphoria. Putting all of these reasons together can translate to an enhanced feeling of exercise induced euphoria, or runner’s high. I know that I experience this feeling more intensely when on the trails and my observations suggest that my dogs do as well.

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With all of these benefits, a smart strategy is to plan regular (if not frequent) exercise sessions in the nearest park, field, trail, or forest. Get outside, with your dog, and take advantage of what Mother Nature has provided.

 

Further Reading:

Forest walking and stress reduction

Forest walking and sleep benefits

Interacting with Nature Improves Cognition and Affect for Individuals with Depression

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26 Comments

  1. great reasons, I love being outside with my dogs, so much to see and do.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Reflections And Psychedelic WaterMy Profile

  2. I prefer exercising outside whenever possible. Getting out into the forest with the girls is my happy place. 🙂
    Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) recently posted…ZoePhee Reviews: The Anxiety WrapMy Profile

  3. I so agree with you… it sometimes feels as if we would be the only living things on earth… and it’s great to enjoy the silence and the “just you and me time” together :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog BOXINGDAYMy Profile

  4. Hi Y’all!

    Most of my exercise this time of year is snoozin’ on the wood floors in the air conditioning.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  5. Hear, hear! I love going for walks and hikes in wooded areas, ideally with bodies of water/waterfalls. Those two combined leave me 100% relaxed and rejuvenated. I would assume that the pups feel the same way, and even if they didn’t, they would pick up on my relaxed energy 😉
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…How To Keep Your Dog Safe (& Relaxed!) Around FireworksMy Profile

  6. I love getting outside with the huskies. I love to go exploring with them, so much fun!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…A Dogs Nose Knows What A Dogs Nose Knows!My Profile

  7. Running the trails with the pups is just the best. Nice to get away from it all.

  8. All so true. Me and the dogs much prefer a walk in the wilds than a walk on the sidewalk.
    Mary recently posted…After Before Friday-HorsesMy Profile

  9. We can never understand those people that never go outside, never walk or bike, just drive everywhere. They are missing out on so much, not just health things, but the beauty of the outdoors.
    Emma recently posted…Exploring Mill Ruins ParkMy Profile

  10. “Enhanced feeling of exercise induced euphoria” very interesting that dogs also feel the runner’s high.

  11. We enjoy getting outside with the boys, but the heat and humidity mean either early mornings or late evenings. We are waiting for the Red River to go back below flood stage so we can take back out on our adventures. Most of the walking trails in our city surround the river. Until then, it’s back in the neighborhood.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Bravo for Special MomentsMy Profile

  12. We love the idea of getting a runner’s high without having to actually run. We have experienced this many times.
    jan recently posted…Anorexic woman saved from deadly eating disorder by her puppyMy Profile

  13. Ah, the great outdoors. You can’t simply beat it!

    sumskersandearlskers13.blogspot.com
    Earl Lover recently posted…Trick TrainingMy Profile

  14. I so agree with you! I just wrote about how much Barley and I missed being able to get walks outside of a neighborhood while we were traveling.
    Beth recently posted…A Whole New WorldMy Profile

  15. We’re lucky to be living in an area with lots of parks and trails. I do have to say I appreciate air conditioning during the summer for indoor exercise.

  16. Hey the Boys and I are now hiking through the parks in Virginia. True stories! Every Monday, my soon to be son-in-law and I head out in search of new adventures. This Monday we found a great stream, it was cool and the water was so refreshing. We had a blast.

  17. All of your points are true; however, one issue I have this time of year is dealing with allergies when being out in the great outdoors. Summer is not a great time for me. I do better after the freeze.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…A Trip To OhioMy Profile

  18. I much prefer to be outside in the fresh air EXCEPT when the temps are in the 90s and the humidity is so high it feels like a sauna. This week has been horrendous, and it doesn’t look like we’ll see any improvement before Halloween.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Feeding My Chow HoundsMy Profile

  19. I wish we could get out more. This past week the temps have been above 110. I walk my girl on the grass and make sure she gets exercise in the house. I have trouble keeping the pads of her feet healthy. I try everything. Bag Balm, Pet Salve, Vaseline, Neosporin. I bought some Musher’s secret, but that is only to be used after the paws have been healed. My girl is 3 1/2. We use to take her for walks all of the time each and everyday. One day one of our neighbor’s dogs got of the house and mauled her. The good news is that after going to the vet each day for a month and an operation, she survived. The bad news is it terrified me to take her out beyond the yard. But this spring we started walking her again each day (armed with defense just in case), until she started limping due to cracked pads. I took her to the vet and she thought her pads were fine. Her groomer even thought her pads were in good shape. I’m wondering if maybe someone can do an article on what is considered healthy pads. Her edges are rough and the large pads on her front feet have like a flap that is separated from the main pad. So, right now with the temperatures being what they are, I exercise her in the house.

    • Her pads may be fine, but the pavement or surface you are walking on may irritate them. Our Jack hates walking on pavement – especially when it is hot. He also doesn’t like grass – he’ll go on it, but only if he has to. Try taking her to a park with a dirt trail and see if she does better. You might also try those Pawz booties. So sorry about the problem with the neighbor dog but glad she is doing better.
      mkob recently posted…5 Benefits of Outdoor Exercise with your DogMy Profile

  20. We get our exercise in early or late to avoid the heat now that summer has arrived. There’s nothing quite like those early morning runs with Sam before the city has woken up. Best time of the day, hands or paws down.

  21. We love heading out to some of the parks and hiking paths around here. Added benefit of those softer surfaces are they’re not as hot as pavement. We try to avoid the pavement here in the summer!
    Diane recently posted…Secrets to a Well-Trained Dog. #4 Will Astound You!My Profile

  22. There’s nothing better than a long walk in the countryside!
    Clowie recently posted…Sitting PrettyMy Profile

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