by Debbie Stephenson
What is one thing you have in common with your dog or cat? If you answered the need to exercise you are exactly right!
The benefits from exercise for both humans and pets include weight management, stronger bones and muscles, improved hearts and lungs and an overall improvement in health.
Exercising a dog may include long walks, playing fetch, swimming or running. Cats can be taught from an early age to walk on a leash but you typically do not see many strolling around the neighborhood. While indoors, try stimulating their hunting instincts. Your cat would love to chase a ball or a battery operated mouse or even a laser light. I was exercising at home and my cat thought it was fun to try and catch my foot. To keep him away from me, I used my laser pointer to keep him chasing the light in a different part of the room. Simple ribbons tied to the end of a stick will get your cat swatting, pouncing, and chasing it.
Prior to beginning an exercise routine you need to consult your vet. Some animals need more exercise than others and some may have breed traits that are affected by vigorous exercise. Your vet can give you a recommendation on what to do and what to avoid. Just like you. Your doctor can give your advice on what exercises are best for you body. It is wise for both you and your pet to see a doctor/vet.
Safety is always of concern. When exercising, you both need plenty of water and to be aware of the temperature when outdoors. Both pets and humans are prone to heat exhaustion. Sunburn as well. Ask the vet if your animal needs sun protection. Other safety items to consider are reflective items when exercising in the dark or life vests when swimming. Also, be aware that pets and humans can get blisters on their pads/feet.
Exercise is a must for both humans and pets alike. By exercising together you are taking care of each other and working toward a long, healthy life with one another. If you do not have a pet, think about adopting one. You will make a positive difference in each other’s life.
Debbie Stephenson teaches Families Eating Smart and Moving More. If you would like to offer this healthy eating program at your organization or church, please call Debbie at NC Cooperative Extension, 910-893-7530.