Will a Dog Lose Fitness if they Stop Exercising?
Most dogs are natural athletes and it is easy to assume that they are ready and able to handle virtually any type of exercise load. Let’s face it, part of the reason this is true is because most dogs, especially the younger ones, will act as if they have an unlimited supply of energy and are enthusiastic whenever they are asked to get up and go.
The fact of the matter is that dogs, like humans, need to build up their fitness over time and it is not safe to just ‘go for it’ without proper training. Similarly, when a dog is forced to stop exercising for a period of time, their bodies will become deconditioned and the pet parent needs to be aware of this when planning the dog’s return to exercise.
Effects of Detraining on a Dog’s Body
There aren’t many scientific studies that have examined detraining effects on a dog’s fitness. One such study, “Physiological and blood biochemical responses to submaximal treadmill exercise in Canaan dogs before, during and after training”, published in 1989 by Sneddon et al., showed that fit dogs would lose most of their fitness in 3-5 weeks. This timeframe feels about right to me and is consistent with my own personal experience with assorted sports injuries that I have encountered myself.
Detraining research on humans is more extensive. Numerous studies show that the human body will noticeably lose fitness and the associated physiological benefits with as little as two weeks of inactivity.
Some of the factors that can influence the time it takes for an athlete to lose fitness include:
- The athlete’s prior level of fitness. The more fit the athletes, the more gradual was the detraining effect.
- The type of training done (e.g. low intensity vs. high intensity). More intense training is associated with less of a detraining effect from inactivity.
- Whether or not the athlete is totally inactive or if they try and mix in some form of movement while they are on the sidelines. Maintaining some level of activity during an injury or a rest cycle seems to forestall the detraining effect. As an example, a runner with a lower limb injury can maintain some level of fitness by lifting weights or performing other types of exercises while they are recovering.
It seems logical that a dog’s body would react similarly to inactivity. Thus, if a dog is temporarily shut down from exercising, return to sport should be measured and gradual, depending on the length of time the dog is inactive and their overall level of fitness. Because the fact is, a dog will lose fitness if they stop (or cut back) on their exercise.
— SlimDoggy (@MySlimDoggy) January 29, 2016
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