Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is Your Exercise Going To The Dogs?

The obesity problem in America is growing faster than we can add notches to our belts. Over 60% of American adults are overweight; over 15% of our children are overweight, and becoming more so at a rapid rate. As a society, we would rather endure almost anything-including a month-long tax audit-than exercise for half an hour. And, now, thanks to the trickle-down effects of our overindulgent, inactive, lifestyles, another weighty crisis is looming. Man’s best friend – the family dog – is battling the bulge too. Not a great way to treat your best friend, in my opinion…

We are given one body to last us for our entire existence here on this planet. Why have the majority of us decided to neglect, even abuse this privilege? Physical fitness is ignored, and replaced with time spent in front of a computer screen or our new 46” flat screen. How has it come to be that we have become a nation transfixed by reality television at the expense of our own health? And in the cases of those of us who choose to achieve a high – or even moderate - level physical fitness, why have we forgotten about our canine companions?

The situation of obese canines has reached epidemic proportions. A report from Veterinary Pet Insurance, Inc. indicates that 25% of dogs are overweight, but most veterinarians believe that the real number is closer to 50%. With over 62 million dogs in the U.S., that is a huge number of overweight four-legged companions. Dogs, by nature, crave attention and affection – rewarding them with food, or “giving love through treats”, is in fact causing more harm than help. By inflicting our sedentary lifestyles on our pets, we are shortening their life spans and limiting their quality of life – which is exactly what we are doing to ourselves!! Your buddy would be much better off, much happier - and well behaved - if you dusted off his leash and spent some quality time on a walk around the block – or, for that matter, a 5-mile run! Even a tennis ball in the back yard for 20 minutes will benefit your dog, and deepen the bond you share. And, unlike their human counterparts, once dogs start a regular exercise routine, they beg for it to be a part of their daily routine. The same remedy that is prescribed for human obesity is also being pushed for pets: regular exercise.

As a fitness advocate, personal trainer, and proud owner of two Labrador Retrievers, I know first hand the importance of incorporating regular exercise into a daily routine – not only for myself, but my dogs. I see the benefits every day. Just as exercise keeps me in shape physically, mentally and spiritually, it does the same for my “best friends.” I shower them with affection through a healthy lifestyle. And by keeping myself healthy and fit – getting to the gym on a regular basis every week – I ensure I am able to provide the same for them. My gym membership is their life insurance policy! So, get to the gym for yourself…get on the trail with your companion! Get fit together!

Melissa C. Richards
Personal Trainer, Midtown Fitness & Martial Arts