Pet Appreciation Week is June 7-13 and a great time to enjoy exercising with your pet. GoodLife Fitness VP of group experience, Kim Lavender, suggests “dog owners can do exercises to improve their posture, stability, and stamina to prevent injuries and enjoy better dog walks.” She also recommends working out with your dog to add interest, beyond just walking.
(Kim Lavender with her yellow Labrador named Maple – showing some love!)
It took a pandemic to learn what dog owners have known for a while…owning a dog can prompt you to be more active and helps improve mental health. Studies show dog owners spend close to 300 minutes each week walking their dogs, about 200 more minutes of walking than those who don’t own dogs.
But all that extra walking can take its toll if you’re not ready, and especially if you have a larger or high energy pooch. How many times have you been pulled down the stairs by a dog eager to get outside, or tripped over a four-legged friend in your path? Injuries typically happen when a dog pulls on a leash and walkers lose their balance. Hip fractures were the most common injury associated with dog walking, followed by wrist and upper arm fractures.
Kim Lavender says, “while walking your dog is good, we still need to work on exercises to improve our balance and build muscle so we can enjoy our dog time more and minimize the risk of injury. During Pet Appreciation Week it’s time to show some love to our dogs, and ourselves.”
Lavender and her yellow lab Maple share how to stay active with your canine companion this summer. Lavender recommends some functional exercises to help build strength and stability to prevent injury and enjoy your dog time more.
Stabilize your core: A strong core helps you walk on uneven terrain and stay upright when your dog pulls or jumps. Try planks, glute bridges, and supermans (lie on your stomach and slowly lift shoulders and thighs off the ground, hold, then release).
Strengthen your ankles: With all the walking and running after your dog, there’s a risk of rolling your ankle. Opt for exercises that require you to balance on one leg at a time like the tree pose or half-moon pose in yoga, as well as squat jumps to reinforce ankle stability and help you stay more grounded.
Build shoulders, arms: You need flexibility and strength in your upper body for throwing the ball, holding the leash, and loading the dog into the car. Simple movements like single arm rows with weights, push-ups, or simply alternate raising a full water bottle in front of you at shoulder level, complete 10-15 reps each. These can help stabilize your shoulders and strengthen your upper arms.
Build quads and glutes: For stronger upper legs and glutes to keep up with your pooch, try squats with resistance bands, leg curls on an exercise ball, and side-steps using a resistance band.
Lavender adds, “there are lots of exercises you can do with your dog that will give you a chance to build strength, keep your dog engaged, and help teach obedience.”
Here are some ideas:
- Push-ups on a picnic table or on the ground with your dog in a sit
- Alternate walking, then jogging then sprinting
- Squat your dog. Do a series of squats with your dog in your arms as a weight
- Several 30-second planks with your dog lying down nearby
- Walking lunges with your dog heeling beside you
- Dog yoga. The dog reads your energy and it calms them. Good for bonding.
Shake up your routine at least once a week, whether it’s a new route or a new exercise regimen like classes. But remember to consult your vet to figure out what’s best for your dog.