Dogs are great fitness companions and can even act as a substitute for a motivating fitness coach.
They are ready to walk or run whenever you are, will push you (more like pull you) to pick up the pace, and show you how much to truly enjoy an active lifestyle.
A dog will never have to cancel because of a conflicting appointment, won't complain or make excuses, and will be genuinely excited to spend time being active with you. They can be one of the best fitness partners you will ever have.
Dogs of every size, breed, and age will enjoy hiking trails and parks with you. Not all dogs are runners, but not all people are either.
No matter what style of activity you enjoy, if you're looking for an eager fitness partner to enjoy the outdoors with, clip a leash on your own doggie or offer to take a friend's dog for a regular outing. Your friend, their dog, and your health will each benefit.
Generally exercise is good for pets in the same way it is good for people. It promotes strong hearts and lungs, good muscle tone, strength and stamina.
If you are planning to begin running with your best friend, it's a good idea to think about your dog's comfort and safety just as you would consider your own when you start a new fitness program.
Consult your pet's veterinarian before starting a strenuous new routine. Just like people, dogs should have a physical exam before they begin a new exercise routine.
A check-up can identify conditions or medical reasons you or your pet might have, how long you both can exercise, and what level of activity you can participate in.
Just like us, some dogs won't be able to exercise very much or for very long because of their body shapes and physiology. Choose the right level of activity for both you and your pooch.
Even if there are no medical challenges, if your dog is overweight, he or she may tire more easily. Just like you, dogs can also have pains in their joints when they run. Overweight dogs are also at greater risk for heat stroke, just like people, so make sure you both stay well hydrated.
If you or your doggie haven't been active for a while, set an easy pace as you start out and work up to longer distances and times. Pay a lot of attention to your own body and to your new four-legged fitness partner to recognize the signs of when when it's time to take a break.
Your dog needs to gear up slowly and train for a new fitness challenge in the same way you would.
Even when you have both been training for a while, make sure to choose reasonable distances. It may not be a good idea to run with a dog for more than three to five miles.
Choose a distance that is comfortable and still fun.
Notice how dogs run and play for the pure enjoyment of it. Look how happy your dog is when they're being active with you by their side. They don't look in the mirror and think, "Man, I need to work out to loose some of this fat and fit into my skinny jeans."
When I run and play with any of my three dogs, ranging in age from four months to 14 years, I believe they are thinking, "I love the feeling of the wind in my face and my heart pounding. I love spending this time having fun with my best friend."
We can all learn a lot from our pets about being active for the sheer enjoyment of it.
Looking for local places to get active with your dog? Here are just a few:
Enjoy a relaxing afternoon with your pet at this family-friendly park. There are also two large off-leash canine corrals with plenty of grass, sitting areas, and some shade.
Pets are welcome on-leash at this dog-friendly park which even supplies waste bags. The rose gardens make this a popular spot with local dog-walkers.
Pets are welcome to run and play off-leash in the undeveloped areas of this beautiful Danville park, though be careful as the park is not completely fenced.
The Iron Horse Regional Trail is one of 1,600 rail-trails supported by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that is working to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors. This is a very popular, flat trail this is perfect for beginners. Make sure your dog is on a leash.
There's plenty of room to run on the soft grass of this fenced, off-leash dog park, which includes a separate small dog area, drinking fountains, benches, and agility equipment. There isn't a lot of shade, so make sure to stay well hydrated.
Bring your pet to play off-leash at this Livermore dog park, which is safely fenced and also provides drinking water.
Soak up the beauty of nature in this wine country public park. Trails follow winding streams through fields and woodlands. Pets welcome on-leash.
Set in a friendly neighborhood full of walking paths, this fenced dog park is a great place for your pet to play off-leash.
This fenced off-leash dog park is one of five in the Livermore area, and includes access to drinking water.
This good-sized, fenced dog park is a wonderful place for your dog to play off leash while you sit and enjoy the shade. Water provided.
Bring your pet on-leash to this beautiful park packed with activities. Fee is $2 per dog.
Pets on leashes are welcome at this Pleasanton recreation area. The former quarry is also a great spot for fishing and swimming.
Locals love to bring their pets to this fully fenced off-leash dog park in San Ramon.
Your pet is welcome to play with you off-leash everywhere in this park except trails and sports fields, if under voice control. Area not fenced.
Pets will thank you for a bit of off-leash exercise at this fenced dog park, which includes a separate area for small pets.