Between work and social obligations, you might be left with little time for sleep, let alone regular exercise. As stress builds, waistlines expand and comfort food takes the place of calisthenics. Unfortunately, as your fitness fades, your pet's often does, too. For every quick jaunt to the corner that takes the place of a real walk and every treat given out of guilt for working long hours, pets gain weight and face serious health complications.
The health risks that accompany human obesity aren't much different for dogs. For small dogs such as the Chihuahua, gaining one pound is the human equivalent of 31.3 pounds. At this rate, if a small dog gains 4 pounds, it's the equivalent of a human gaining 125 pounds!
The good news is that you can keep both your weight and your pet's in check by exercising together. Animals can be wonderful workout motivators and with a little creativity, you can create a workout regimen that will help you both stay healthy and fit. Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson, founder of Petfit.com, recommends the following pet-friendly exercises:
Exercising with Man's Best Friend
Circuit training doesn't have to mean bouncing between machines at the gym. Spend some time outside and give your dog the exercise it needs by setting up fitness gear in your yard. No need to buy expensive equipment--just be creative with what you already have. A step stool can be used for a step aerobic interval; a jump rope can give you a good cardio workout and can be used for tug-of-war with your dog, and a hula hoop can be rolled or tossed for your dog to chase.
Perform a standing squat: feet shoulder-width apart, making sure your knees stay behind your toes, bending at no less than a 90 degree angle. At the bottom of the squat, gently tap your dog with a ball. At the top of the squat, hold the ball above your head so your dog will jump for it.
An interval walk is a great way to fit in a good cardio workout for both you and your dog. Alternating between walking and running is great for small and old dogs that aren't able to run for long distances.
Play the same way you did on the playground: "tag" your dog and then run away so it will chase after you. Follow your pup's lead when it returns the chase.
Dog Stairs If it worked for Rocky, it can work for you and your dog. Find a long set of stairs either in your home or at a nearby park or school and run up and down them with your dog. You'll be at your fighting weight in no time.
Exercises for the Cat Lover
While dogs tend to be more receptive to active play time, cats are equally in need of regular exercise. After they grow out of their curious kitten phase, cats tend to prefer lounging to leaping. These exercises are a good way to spark their interest and get them moving.
Curious Cat Curls
Using a length of string, tie a toy to each of your dumbbells. As you curl your biceps, your cat can jump and bat at the dangling ruse.
Cat "Light" Abs
Do abdominal crunches while holding a small flashlight in each hand. At the top of each crunch, tighten your abs while moving the light on the wall in front of you. Your cat won't be able to resist chasing the phantom menace.
Cat "Light" Cardio
With flashlights in hand, jump, march, or jog in place while moving the light on the wall in front of you for a good cardio workout for you and your cat.
While regular exercise is beneficial for you and your pet, be sure to do it safely. If your dog tends to run off, always exercise it on a leash. Since pets can't sweat, they pant to cool down. Exercise during a cooler time of day--either morning or evening-- and remember to give your pet one ounce of water per pound of body weight. Stop exercising immediately if your pet shows any signs of distress. If you notice excessive panting, a bright red tongue and gums, or your pet is standing or lying listlessly, it may be a sign of heat stroke. Head to the vet immediately. Keep your workouts fun and safe, and you'll boost your fitness and your pet's.