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HOW TO KEEP YOU YOUNG WITH YOUR DOG

That’s right! Your dog can be your best partner in keeping you young. The amount of activity you generate with your canine companion dog will keep you healthy and help you look young and live a longer life. That’s a fact! Exercising with your pet is the best choice of  a “health lifestyle” you will ever make. Here are some recommendations to develop your personalized training program where both you and your dog can get great health benefits and stay fit. As an added benefit, these recommendations will save expensive health-club membership fees and show you how you can exercise on the “cheap” with your best friend.

Cardiovascular Exercises
You can achieve a good cardiovascular workout by simply taking your dog for a brisk walk, jog or get on your bicycle. Thirty minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise is an excellent way to maintain a good metabolism and to safely control body weight. It also provides you and your pet the aerobic activity you need to increase your heart rate and benefit from better oxygenation throughout your entire system and increase endurance. Better oxygen input results in an increased metabolism of all body system, allowing you and your dog to be more alert and perkier. It will also help maintain digestive health, alleviate other lethargy symptoms related to poor oxygenation, boost the immune system, increase muscle fitness, strengthen the bones and reduce the incidence of osteoporosis.

Regardless of your choice of exercise for you and your pet, it is important to have a progressive warm-up. Always start with a gentle pace for the first five minutes allowing your body to respond to the increased activity. Then progressively increase your effort over the next 20 minutes. In this way, you will give your body the opportunity to warm up and prevent stress to your muscles, ligaments and joints. 

Be sure to include a 5 - minute cool-down period of walking. Your heart rate should resume normal rhythm before stopping the exercise. This allows your body to ease down from its efforts.  A normal heart rate is about 75 pulses per minute, however this can differentiate from one individual to another. A dog’s normal heart rate is about 80 pulses per minute; however, it can vary from breed to breed.

Do not forget to bring water for the both of you and some healthy snacks to keep blood sugar at par with your exercises output. If your dog is too old for a 30 to 50 minute work out, you can consider smaller 10 minute bouts of exercises throughout the day.

Swimming is another option for you and your pet. Swimming is one of the best gentle exercises involving all your muscles exercising at the same time without excessive resistance. Its low-impact nature is perfect for those afflicted with arthritis.

Musculature Fitness
Unfortunately, as we get older, our muscles decrease in size and lose their ability to contract. Regular exercises helps to maintain good musculature as well as to keep good metabolism, and regulate body fat. You can increase your muscle mass with home strengthening exercises such as pushups, biceps curls and triceps extensions, leg squats or lunges or other exercises using a resistance band to increase your muscular effort.

Playing fetch with your dog by throwing a ball, stick, Frisbee or other toy has health benefits for both you and your dog. And it is fun! Remember to switch your throwing arm frequently to get an even workout. Using both arms will help you maintaining good muscular balance throughout your body.

When starting a strengthening program, allow 48 to 72 hours between sessions. This give your muscles time to bounce back and avoid injury due to overuse. Excessive exercise can lead to soreness and adds to the risk of injured tendons. My 26 years experience providing massage therapy has seen many injuries from people who do too much too soon.

It is important to combine gentle, easy to perform exercises that safely combine aerobics and strength training for the benefit of your heart, muscles, bones and immune system for the both of you and your dog. A smart choice of activities will avoid the danger of high impact physical activities that are so prevalent in the gym.

Good Posture
Regardless of the type of exercise you choose, good posture is essential to avoid muscular and skeletal problems, better known as “bad back”! Maintain good posture by engaging your core muscles - abdominals, hip flexors and back muscles. Doing so will greatly help you with your overall balance and coordination and helps to prevent muscles and ligaments injuries. Proper usage of the core muscle is such an important part of fitness that, in order to help the many people in need of stronger core muscles, I wrote a book titled “The Riders Fitness Guide to a Better Seat”. This book offers several sets of exercises (beginner, intermediate and advance) to progressively and safely develop the core muscles in the comfort of your home and without any equipment. These 10 minute programs will help you develop stronger core muscles quickly so you have better support for your back. In this book you will also learn how to feel your center of gravity and how to use this awareness to get in the best posture for your body at all times.

Flexibility with Stretching
To reduce the risk of stiffness and to maintain overall flexibility, include a stretching session to loosen all the large muscle groups you have just exercised. In the same book “The Riders Fitness Guide to a Better Seat” you will find simple and easy-to-perform stretching exercises that relax your leg (calf muscles, hamstrings and quadriceps), arm and shoulder muscles (trapezius, rhomboids, deltoids, biceps and triceps) as well as your entire back and neck muscles (erector spinal group, abdominals and more).

When stretching, be gentle and always start with an “easy stretch”.  Engage your muscles to the point of just feeling the stretch; this is not a contest to see how far you can stretch. Stretching too far too fast can hurt you and your dog. Once you are comfortable in the easy stretch, stretch a little further to increase your flexibility. Always stretch in a gentle way. Remember, it is not a contest! Stretching your body gently in the morning will help your body to “wake-up”. Stretching in the evening or after exercising helps to relieve the tension accumulated during the day.

Massage, Massage, Massage
The many benefits of massage have been proven. You can get a good massage at your local spa, chiropractor office, or even have a professional come to your home. A good Swedish massage soothes your nervous system, relieves your body soreness and promotes good circulation throughout your body. A sport massage relieves trigger and stress points that can develop as a result of your strength training. You can duplicate the same for your dog by ether contacting a certified animal massage therapist or by simply learning to do it yourself.

The website, AnimalAwareness.com, provides you with a large selection of mini-videos demonstrating how you can easily apply safe massage techniques and routines as well as stretching exercises to your dog in the comfort of your home. These inexpensive, high definition short videos will give you visual guidance on how to properly apply the various massage moves just as if I was there to teach you in person. Animal massage is easily learned and easily applied. Your animal will love you for it.

Also, by massaging your own dog you will not only reinforce the bond of trust, but you will also know exactly how he is feeling; if his muscles are relaxed or tight, or if inflammation is developing. This personal home care will allow you to take early and quick action to best assist your pet health and fitness by adjusting your program or seeking the help of your veterinarian.

These simple recommendations create a fun, easy and regular exercise and home care program for you and your dog. Make sure to warm-up before you exercise to get the blood flowing and secure good oxygenation to your muscles. Varying your exercise routines not only maintains good muscular fitness, but also keeps it interesting for both you and your pet. To stay on top of your fitness massage your pet and get a massage for yourself.

Use the Animal Awareness free library for more information on various topics to actively participate in your animal’s wellness.

One last Thought
Always acknowledge symptoms of pain, whether in you or in your dog. Pain is a warning sign and should be respected. Not doing so could risk body injuries. If any pain occurs, consult your doctor, or veterinarian, for proper diagnosis.

In the mean time, enjoy keeping young and fit with your best friend…

Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT

A note from the Author:

I hope you enjoyed this article and found the information useful.  My goal is help you provide quality home care for the benefit of your animal. 

Please visit our FREE library. Our many articles address important aspects of animal wellness and fitness. Take the time to scroll through our free library to find out how you can actively contribute to your dog’s wellness. You can directly access this library through your iPhone, by using the Animal Awareness free application.

At AnimalAwareness.com we also offer a large video library with over a 100 mini-videos that will show you how to easily perform the various massage and stretching techniques talked about in this article. These videos offer you the correct start and visual guidance. With this knowledge, you will be able to develop a good home care program for the benefit of your animal friend.  He will love you for it.

Recommended DVD Downloads

If you are just starting with your home care program, consider our “Introduction to Animal Massage” package,a 20% discount value on the first 7 DVDs, to secure a sound foundation in your animal massage skills and in stretching exercises. Take advantage of our other packages to further develop your expertise in animal home-care.