All our pets need exercise to be physically and mentally healthy, just like we do. Cats love to climb, hamsters run on their wheels, dogs need their walks.
Including your pet in your fitness routine can be beneficial for both the human and the animal involved. Going for walks or a jog with a dog is probably the most classic example we can think of.
When it comes to including your pet in your workouts, we need to be realistic: Some pets are not made to join just any fitness program/activity – you may have to adapt to your pet’s desires so you both enjoy the activity. Make it playful and the bond between you and your animal will grow.
Once you develop a routine of working out with your furry friend, there are no more excuses, such as “I won’t make it today because my dog will be alone at home” – a well-trained one will give you a high five when doing sit-ups.
How to include my pet in my fitness routine?
When speaking about workouts, we count long walks in. The habit of walking your dog, or even your cat, twice a day for 15 minutes can reduce the risk of your pet developing conditions such as osteoarthritis and high blood pressure.
Other activities outdoors that you may wish to try with your furry friend include hiking, running, and cycling. Playing fetch is another great idea – adding a tennis ball or Frisbee to your outdoor activities keeps your pet engaged. For pets that cannot participate in your sports activities actively, you may wish to get a stroller or backpack – this guarantees time spent together and adds some extra challenge/weight to your workout.
Once you can see your pet enjoy the fitness time together, you are more likely to feel encouraged and motivated to give them similar experiences again soon. If your pet is not suitable for any workout together – thinking in terms of a hamster, a turtle or a snake for example – make sure to include it during cool-down phases or at the end of your workout sharing treats and hugs.
What if I don’t have a pet but wish to try exercising with a furry friend?
Have you heard of puppy yoga or dog yoga, also called “doga?” This recent trend appears to be growing in popularity – even with kittens and bunnies. These classes can be beneficial for both humans and animals. The animals learn to socialize with humans whilst they are receiving some cuddles during a relaxing yoga session.
If no such offer is available in your area, you may consider “borrowing” a pet by offering dog-sitting for friends or neighbours – this can be a win-win situation. Another alternative could be contacting an animal shelter to volunteer and take dogs for walks and runs.
Before including furry friends in your workouts, make sure to speak to a vet and ensure no harm is being caused to the animal. Start slowly and steadily to build a routine.
If you face any challenges, realize that your pet might need some additional leash training to be able to join your workouts, or just have some questions regarding this topic, reach out to our Pet Psychology & Behaviour Training service.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with the Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in sexuality, relationship issues, trauma and general mental health.