Running with Your Dog: Why You Should Make Man's Best Friend Your Running Partner

Fitness Tips

Running with Your Dog: Why You Should Make Man's Best Friend Your Running Partner

If you think you need some gentle encouragement to develop or stay on track of an exercise regimen, your dog may be the perfect running partner.

In fact, without ever breaking a sweat, did you know your canine companion is helping you stay healthy? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), just interacting with a pet can help reduce your blood pressure, elevate your mood and decrease the amount of LDL cholesterol in your body.

When It Comes to Exercise, Everyone Needs Some Encouragement

Your furry friend can do much more than stand on the sidelines.

He or she may be able to motivate you in ways your past New Year's resolutions couldn't by offering some friendly, sometimes insistent, companionship -- especially on those mornings when you'd much rather sleep in than head out for a walk or run, or when your schedule just won't allow you to get to the gym.

Think of it in trainer logic: half the battle of exercising is sticking with a program long enough for it to become a habit.

If You Walk, Jog or Run, Do It with a Dog

There's some solid research behind the idea that walking or running with your dog can be a powerful motivating factor in getting a regular workout.

In a Michigan State University study of 5,900 participants, two out of three dog owners took their pets for regular walks, and 60 percent of that group met federal guidelines for moderate to vigorous exercise. Moreover, the results of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsored study of 2,500 older adults was also encouraging. Participants who walked their dogs were more likely to walk faster and farther than those who walked without pets. And over the course of three years, the dog walkers also remained more agile and mobile than their dog challenged counterparts.

One theory is that having an enthusiastic, energetic dog around does more than get you out and about. It also provides some impetus to exercise longer and more regularly, which translates to exercising better. That's something you might not get running alone or with another human who doesn't match your exercise style or activity level.

Running with a dog also offers added security. Your pooch probably pays more attention to his surroundings than you do. On a run, he'll also act as a natural deterrent to some two-footed and four-footed threats. Oh, and a dog won't judge your running form, cancel on you at the last minute or talk incessantly, either.

Before You Begin Exercising With Your Dog

Before you grab your running shoes and a leash, keep these things in mind:

  • Check with the appropriate medical professionals to get a clean bill of health for you and your dog.
  • Observe all leash and other laws regarding pets in your area.
  • Carry enough water for both you and your canine running partner (allowing your dog to drink ditch or puddle water can be dangerous).
  • Choose your locations carefully. You have shoes, but your dog doesn't. Hot asphalt, gravel, stones and broken glass can damage your dog's foot pads.
  • Use good judgment when running in extreme weather conditions. You know what's too hot or cold for you, but what about your dog? Smaller dogs tend to be more cold sensitive than larger dogs, and some dog breeds are more susceptible to heat and humidity than others. All dogs will have problems running on ice or on hot asphalt or concrete.
  • Start slowly, and work up to a level of physical activity consistent with your age and health profile. As a baseline, the CDC defines this as 150 minutes per week of a moderately intense aerobic activity like brisk walking or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like jogging or running. Typically, the benefits increase the more you exercise. Don't forget to ease your dog into a workout routine as well. An out-of-shape dog needs to take things slow at first, and could probably use a little friendly encouragement too.