A person walking a dog to get exercise

Bond with your dog through exercise

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Pets can provide the motivation you need to get a proper workout each week, especially if you’ve found yourself spending more time at home

Does your fitness tracker frequently shame you for not getting enough steps? If you can’t bring yourself to work out for yourself, think about pounding the pavement for your pup — just remember to keep at least six feet distance from other people.

“Most people should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week,” says Ashley Burdex, DO, family medicine physician on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center.

Dr. Burdex, who has two dogs herself, says walking the dogs is a great way to get in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day. She says walking or running with your dogs can bring additional health benefits like:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness.

“Dogs are wonderful companions, and studies have shown pets can increase their owners’ physical, mental, and emotional health,” Dr. Burdex says.

AH, formerly the American Human Society, says active time together provides an opportunity for the dog and its owner to establish a strong bond of affection. AH points out that in addition to the physical health benefits exercise brings your dog, walking will also give your dog’s mind a workout, and a bored dog can be a destructive dog.

Woman bonds with her two dogs by exercising.Stacy Covitz enjoys walking her pups at White Rock Lake

Because boredom isn’t good for dogs or humans, it’s important to mix up your route. Stacy Covitz, vice president of marketing and public relations at Methodist Health System, frequently looks for new places to walk her Shih Tzu, Maddie, and Schnoodle mix, Posey. Here are some of her favorite hiking spots:

Cedar Ridge Preserve — Cedar Hill. “There are multiple trails at the Cedar Ridge Preserve, so you can take an easy, flat hike or a more advanced hike. My favorite is the Cedar Brake Trail, which is pretty steep and hilly for Texas,” Stacy says.

Katy Trail — Dallas, from American Airlines Center to the SMU area. “The dogs and I hike this route at least once a week,” Stacy says. “It’s shaded, there are multiple water fountains at dog level, benches for when Maddie needs a break, and you can always stop at Katy Trail Ice House for a snack!”

Spring Creek Nature Area — Richardson. “I love how shaded this trail is,” Stacy says. “Maddie gets hot easily, so shade is a must.”

Fish Creek Linear Park Trail — Arlington to Grand Prairie. “This is called the ‘Trail of Two Cities,’ and it connects several parks. It’s more than seven miles, so you can get a great hike in without having to loop.”

Studies have shown pets can increase their owners’ physical, mental, and emotional health.

The same way humans should consult a physician before starting a new exercise program, make sure to speak with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is in proper shape to hike. Remember that hot pavement can hurt dogs’ paws and to pack enough water and snacks for your pups! Your vet can also tell you how to recognize the signs that your dog has had enough and about canine first aid.

Do I really need 10,000 steps a day?