There’s no replacement for a good, long walk when it comes to keeping your dog healthy and happy. Just like humans, going for a walk gives dogs an opportunity to burn calories, strengthen their cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and unleash all that pent-up energy that accumulates throughout a long day.
Walking the dog is also a great addition to your fitness routine. One survey showed the average dog owner gets an at least five and a half hours of activity per week just from going for walks. Plus, most people find it a lot more fun than hitting the gym – in the same survey, 86% of respondents said they enjoyed walking the dog, while only 16% said the same about going to the gym.
Here are tips to boost the health benefits of walking the dog.
1. Interval Training
Most people walk the dog at an even pace, but you’ll get a better workout if you switch it up.
Start your walk with an easy, five-minute warm-up, then pick up the pace for a set period of time (two minutes, a city block, the distance between lamp posts, etc.) before returning to a more leisurely stroll. Repeat. You’ve just added interval training to your dog-walking routine!
As you and your dog become better at it, you can increase the faster-paced intervals and decrease the period of rest. It’s okay if you can’t always stick to the interval structure as long as you keep moving.
2. New Routine
You’re going for a walk anyhow, so seize the opportunity to explore a new part of town! You’ll expend more energy navigating uncharted territory, going up and down hills and winding through foreign streets. It exercises your brain as well as your body.
Try a local hiking or walking trail when you have time for a longer walk. Your dog will love getting back to nature, and you’ll get more of a full-body exercise than you do on flat ground.
3. Time Trial
If you’re used to the same old walking route, try timing yourself to see how long it takes you. The next day, challenge yourself to beat that record. Once you and your dog are pros at it, try expanding the distance or doing more than one lap.
4. Challenge Fetch
When you and your pup play fetch, don’t just stand there and wait for the ball to come back to you. Use that time to get in some extra exercise! After you throw the ball, challenge yourself to complete reps of a strength move like squats, jumping jacks, or lunges. Or, you could run as far as you can in the opposite direction, boosting cardio for both you and the dog.