Dog Fitness: Working Out for Change
Happy New Year to everyone. How many of you have made a fitness related resolution? Resolving to get in shape is a very common theme around the start of the new year, and it seemed an appropriate time to write about the final “C” in our 6 Cs Pyramid approach to fitness: Change.
Our “6 C’s Pyramid” for fitness provides a framework upon which a lifestyle fitness program can be created. Once you and your dog have mastered the 1st level (convenience, cross training, and common sense), your workouts take shape and you will become more consistent with an exercise program. As you build a habit of consistent (if not daily) exercise, you and your dog can start to develop increased capability, which will in turn lead to increased activity and health, which leads to the end result: change.
Consistent Exercise Will Change You and Your Dog
I don’t know of a single person who started an exercise program, for themselves or their dog, just because they ‘felt like it’. Everyone I know has begun their fitness journey because they want to change themselves and/or their dog. The wonderful thing about consistent exercise is that it WILL result in change, for the better, over time. Let’s take a look at some of the changes that can take place, both for the human and the canine athlete, when fitness becomes a part of the daily routine.
Improved body composition: Appearance wise, our bodies respond to exercise. Consistent exercise means more muscle and less fat for you and your dog.
Increased strength: Using and building your muscles will result in a stronger body. Both you and your dog will benefit from increased strength not only in your workouts, but in the day to day activities in your life.
Increased endurance: Our bodies will respond to endurance training similarly to how they respond to strength training. They will become more efficient and thus, our endurance will improve. Greater endurance will also help us not just when we are exercising, but also in our everyday life in the form of more energy.
Improved mood: We have written several times about the endocannabinoid effect of exercise. This form of runner’s high makes us feel good, and coupled with the inherent stress relieving benefit of exercise can improve our moods and overall outlook on life. And don’t forget that dogs, like humans, are able to feel this runner’s high from exercise. Which is one of the reasons why well exercised dogs are more often than not well behaved dogs.
Greater confidence: With improved fitness comes improved confidence. I see it in both humans and dogs. Our fearful dog Maggie has made tremendous progress conquering her fears in large part due to a regular and rigorous exercise routine. People also tend to feel more confident when they look and feel better.
Reduced disease risk: Study after study has shown that regular exercise can lower the risk of disease. For example, keeping fit can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and even some forms of cancer. The same is true for dogs. As we have written about in the past, fit dogs will live almost 2 years, or 15% longer lives than overweight dogs. Enough said.
With all of these positive changes that can result from regular exercise, I often wonder why more people aren’t more active and why so many dogs are overweight. My guess is it has something to do with the fact that all of these changes take time to occur. Many people expect instant gratification and if a few days of exercise doesn’t change their (or their dog’s) appearance in a noticeable way, than they quickly become discouraged and fall back to old (and unhealthy) habits.
Perhaps practicing patience is a viable 2015 fitness resolution. Let’s become more patient, and give our fitness initiatives the time they need to help us change our bodies, our minds, and our lives?