Work off the Holiday Pounds with Your Pet

Pets are my favorite exercise equipment. Nothing motivates me to go for a run like the pleading eyes of a dog who’s been cooped up indoors all day. Even the cat helps me exercise: When she yowls until I get out the fishing rod toy and play with her, she reminds me that everyone is happier if they get some physical activity in every day, and that play can be exercise, too. Caring for my rats means lifing heavy cages and bags of litter, and I do pushups and crunches in my bedroom while I supervise the rats’ free-range time. After Christmas is the perfect time to let your pet inspire you to exercise. Here are a few ideas.

Exercising with Dogs

Healthy, high-energy dogs are great workout buddies. Take your dog running (make sure you’ve practiced loose leash walking first, and be careful on the ice!) every day, and you’ll be losing your winter flab in no time. If your dog isn’t used to long runs, take it easy with some walking breaks at first. Work up to longer, faster runs. If you’ll be running daily, be sure to invest in some good running shoes and get new ones every few months. You only get one pair of feet– take care of them!

Even if you’re not a runner, you might enjoy hiking with your dog. She can even wear a doggy backpack and carry her own water and/or snacks. Make your hikes more fun for both of you by setting a goal. For example, you could aim to hike with your dog at every State Park in your state, or to summit 10 peaks together. Bring a camera, and possibly a pair of binoculars. Remember never to allow your dog off-leash in an area where she might harass wildlife or tear up fragile plant life. If you hike at high altitude, be especially careful to avoid trampling plants, as many grow very slowly and some are endangered.

Exercising with Other Pets

A calm cat can be surprisingly helpful in keeping you fit. Instead of boring old weights, lift your cat. Some cats enjoy this bonding activity very much. If your cat is more energetic, try watching a workout video together, and as you dance or do aerobics, encourage your cat to do the same by dangling a toy. Chubby cats can slim down with you by working out together.

Parrots can also exercise with you. Large parrots are fairly heavy. Pumping a parrot up and down on your arm is good resistance training for you, and it encourages the bird to exercise his wings, too.

If you’ve got a smaller animal that isn’t directly helpful as an exercise partner, try turning home workouts into a game with your pet. For example, you could run on a treadmill while your hedgehog or hamster runs in a wheel, and see who gets tired first. If you have a rabbit, hide treats around her play area (or around the house if she’s a free range bun) and do a set of pushups each time she finds a hidden snack.

Be creative! No matter what species your pet is, you can find a fun way to stay fit together.

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