Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Gettin’ Fit in ’14

Raise your hand if one of the New Year’s resolutions you made last month was to exercise more.  Or raise your hand if you don’t really go in for that whole “New Year’s resolutions thing” but have silently vowed to yourself that you’ll get more exercise (or lose weight or get outside more) this year.  Yeah, I thought so. Most people want to be doing more  (or suspect they probably should be doing more) healthy activity every week.  The good news is this is something you can do with your pets!  Just like humans, most dogs and cats don’t get enough exercise (at least 35% are overweight), and we all know by now the benefits of regular exercise and even its ability to add years to our lives.  Don’t we want the same for our pups and kitties?

Here are a few ideas we’ve gleaned from various sources that can make exercising doable for your busy schedule, and even make it fun for you and your pets!

  • Animal Planet interviewed celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson, who was quoted as saying, “So many pet owners consider walking their pets a chore, like making the bed…Instead, think of it as a way for you both to get exercise, as an essential part of your pet’s good health.” But these walks need to be more than just a quick walk to the end of the block; aim to make them 15-20 minutes at least, and keep your heart rates slightly increased.  (If your dog is old or unwell or still very young, multiple shorter walks are better.)  The good news is that dogs are creatures of habit, so you’ll always have the motivator/accountability partner nosing at you to stick with it every day!
  • Play tag with your dog.  I know our dog Polly loves it when we get her “riled up” out in the backyard.  If we start running and dodging around she does too. Playing chase or tag would make her day, and it’s a fun way to get a bit of exercise without even realizing it.
  • Also from Animal Planet: “Getting a feline to frolic can be hard work…As cats leave their mischievous kitten stage of life, learning what makes your cat frisky can take some trial and error.” Try Flashlight Sit-ups! “Do sit-ups with a mini flashlight in each hand. At the top position, tighten your ab muscles while waving the flashlight beams back and forth on the wall — your cat will chase them.”
  • Or how about “Curious Cat Curls”? All you have to do for this one is to tie a toy with a string to your dumbbells. Your cat will go crazy trying to catch the toy as you curl up and down. You can do this with a lot of exercises, or try holding a laser pointer or flashlight when you do your other cardio exercises.
  • One word:  DOGA.  Dog yoga is hatha yoga with your dog, combining massage, stretching, and meditation.  Yes, dogs probably don’t need yoga (unless they’re high strung, and then—who knows?) — but meditation, stretching, and massage do a human body much good.  And if your dog will go for it, it can be a great bonding experience.
  • Dancing:  There is an organization called the World Canine Freestyle Organization that promotes dancing along with your dog.  It’s basically just a lot of fun, offering creative expression, exercise, and bonding with your pup.  Think Dancing with the Stars –but with dogs instead of celebrities.  A video of a woman dancing to “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease made the rounds of the internet recently, and I gotta say, both human and dog looked like they were having a lot of fun.  The dog was mentally stimulated by the training involved, he was clearly bonded with his owner as he kept eye contact with her the entire time, and the dance itself looked pretty high-energy!  There is a Freestyle Dancing club in Falls Church; check it out here:
  • If you’ve got an active, high-energy dog, consider enrolling in an agility course. It’ll get your dog the exercise and stimulation she requires (making your life easier), plus it gives you a great workout.  Fairfax County often offers dog training and agility courses; a Google search can yield other options as well.
  • Hiking is always fun in Northern Virginia, what with all the public and state parks we have.  Next time you have a day off and the weather’s not horrible, consider taking your pup for a short hike, and get some fresh air!
  • Even just running around the house or up and down the stairs on those chilly or rainy days can get your heart rate (and mood) up, and the same goes for your pet.  Even short bursts of exercise can help mental and physical healthy tremendously; they will also inspire you to do more because of how good they make you feel.

A word of caution:  If you or your pet are starting from scratch in the exercise department, it’s probably a good idea to get a physical and some advice from your doctor or veterinarian first, especially to prevent injury.

Remember this:  when you play or interact with your pet, your endorphins rise and your stress hormones fall.  This kind of good feeling can add extra boost to your system and improve your workout.  Plus, your pet will benefit emotionally and physically, too.  What’s not to love?  So get out there and get active!

Written by: Ashley Denham Busse

Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for since 2006. is a professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 13 years of providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care. Visit or email 

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