We’ve heard of the many health benefits of caring for a pet. Some pets, like dogs or cats, may require more attention and tender loving care than other animals, but even so, they still take our stress away. That’s why we treat them like our kids. Dogs and cats are no different from toddlers when they demand our attention!
Dogs, in particular, are fantastic stress relievers because they’re more affectionate than other pets. They like to snuggle up to us on the couch or on the bed. And their wagging tails are such an endearing sight, especially when we’ve just gotten back from somewhere else.
But there’s another, more awesome reason dogs are amazing companions: They can help us stay fit, too. They’re up to walks just as they’re up to snuggles. The moment you bring out their leash, your pooch will automatically run in excitement, usually in circles because they’re just so happy.
So if you’ve been wanting to lose weight but can’t find the motivation to, perhaps adopting a dog will finally urge you to start.
How Pets Helps Us Stay Fit
Pets give us opportunities for exercise. Dogs need walks, so by taking them to the park, you can already burn some calories. If you chase them around or walk the same long route every day, you’re burning even more.
But the real “power” of pets in our fitness journey doesn’t have anything to do with their physical activity needs. Rather, it’s in the two types of microbes that they spread in our homes, as per a study done by the University of Alberta. Studies have found that babies in pet-inclusive households showed higher, levels of two different microbes associated with lower risks of obesity. They’re called Ruminococcus and Oscillospira.
These microbes are essentially germs. But evidently, they’re not the threatening type. In fact, exposure to germs, in general, helps boost our immune systems. And because dogs walk barefoot and don’t usually wear clothes, their paws and fur are filled with germs, which they carry into our abodes, making us more resistant to disease-causing bacteria.
The research by the University of Alberta, however, focused on babies, so we may still need additional evidence to prove that those microbes are helpful in adults’ fitness too. But previous studies have shown that an adult’s diet and environment can also alter their gut’s microbiomes. In addition, higher levels of Oscillospira were also found in the guts of thinner adults and those with leaner muscles.
Exercising With Your Pet
Although studies successfully found a link between pets and human fitness, it doesn’t mean owning a dog will automatically make you lose weight. You still need to exercise to maximize your pet’s power.
First and foremost, walk your dog regularly. The duration of your walks, however, must depend on your dog’s breed, weight, age, and overall health. There’s no one-size-fits-all walking routine for dogs, so consult your vet before starting an exercise program.
If walks aren’t a good option for you and your dog, try dancing. Play upbeat music and dance freely, encouraging your dog to move along and run between your legs, or around you in circles. You can also incorporate training in dance; hold up a treat while dancing, so that your dog will jump and reach over to take the treat.
Jogging is a good exercise too, but not all dogs can jog. If jogging is your preferred type of exercise, get a Labrador. But wait for them to become a fully-grown adult before taking them on a long-distance jog and run.
If you have a pool in your yard, your dog may love that, too. Swimming is a great exercise for humans and dogs, especially for those with arthritis. The water eases joint pain and tension. But not all dogs enjoy swimming, so don’t force them if they’re resisting.
Diet Plan for Your and Pooch
You and your dog should have a well-balanced diet. If you’re vegan, your dog can be the same, but a vegetarian diet may suit them better. It may just be a little challenging to switch their diet if you’ve already started feeding them meat. So go slowly by mixing plant-based foods with their meals, decreasing the meat progressively until they can no longer recognize that it’s gone.
But regardless of your dog’s specific diet, give them both healthy, dry dog food and wet food. Dry food benefits their teeth, while wet food helps hydrate them. As per the amount of food, that depends on your dog’s breed, age, size, and lifestyle. Consult your vet to confirm if you’re feeding your pet enough.
As for you, of course, you should consume more whole foods than processed ones, and drink lots of water. Try to limit your sugar and salt intake too; dogs can’t have a lot of those as well.
Remember, you can only maximize your pet’s microbe power by taking care of them and yourself properly. Their power doesn’t work like magic; it requires you and your pet’s control.