Humans And Exercise

Firstly, some important context connecting humans and dogs. Bear with me and it will all make sense in a bit…

As a human, you understand the importance of exercise. If it was a pharmaceutical drug, exercise would be licensed, cost a fortune, and be the most successful medicine in history. Simply put – no drug is as beneficial at treating and preventing so many major illnesses

Here are some figures from the NHS website:

It’s medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have:

  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
  • up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
  • a 30% lower risk of early death
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
  • up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
  • a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression
  • up to a 30% lower risk of dementia

Do you know what else is good for us?

The outdoors and nature. We have become so detached from nature and it’s not good for us. We spend most of our time in homes, in offices, in cars and working long hours in front of computers. I believe this is one of the reasons so many of us are strung-out, stressed, anxious and depressed.

Time spent outdoors, reconnecting with nature is one of the best stress relievers there is. Mind, the UK mental health charity state that spending time outdoors in nature can: 

  • improve your mood
  • reduce feelings of stress or anger
  • help you take time out and feel more relaxed
  • improve your physical health
  • improve your confidence and self-esteem
  • help you be more active

Conversely, I think the opposite could be true too. Spending too much time indoors without access to nature can lower your mood, increase feelings of stress and anger, stop you from taking time out and feeling relaxed, lower your confidence and self-esteem, etc.

Dogs And Exercise

So, now we’ve covered the fact that exercise and nature are important for our own physical and mental health, has it ever occured to you that our dogs’ needs aren’t so different to ours? That maybe many of our dogs are suffering in silence with the same physical and mental health issues we face without enough exercise and time outdoors?

I started K9 Cardio to provide a dog walking service with a greater focus on fulfilling dogs’ exercise needs and their need to be outdoors in nature, exploring woods, open fields, rivers and streams, in all weathers.

The thing is, K9 Cardio is not all about the dogs. It’s also about me. I have juggled anxiety and depression most of my adult life. The previous section about being stuck indoors, stressed, in front of screens, etc, is basically me writing about how I used to be…

Until recently, I spent most of my days in my home office, working long days, largely alone, building and developing websites and online businesses. This took a toll on my health, especially my mental health. 

The thing is – my experience of working home-alone, with a disconnection with nature and the outdoors, is much the same to how many of our dogs live in this modern world…

Our dogs spend almost all their time indoors at home. In many cases they are, understandably, home-alone whilst you are out working etc.

A dog owner told me the other day that their dog didn’t need much walking, as the dog was lazy and slept most of the day. Funnily enough, feeling lethargic and sleeping all day was exactly what I did when depressed.

This got me thinking… If a dog is indoors all day, is a 30-60 minute amble along the streets, or a quick run around the park enough exercise? I was sure it couldn’t be, and it turns out, for most breeds, it’s not. Nowhere near.

The PDSA created the excellent chart below, detailing the exercise needs for specific dog breeds. They have given permission for me to share the chart below. You can check out their advice page in full here.

Click on the chart to enlarge it, if you are having difficulty reading the text.

It’s an eye-opener isn’t it?  I suspected that dogs, like us, were not getting enough exercise, but even I was quite surprised at how high the exercise needs are for many of these dog breeds.

Interestingly, without proper exercise, dogs suffer many of the same or similar health problems I listed above for humans, including anxiety and depression. Like us, exercise is important for a dog’s mental health, and a lack of exercise will likely lead to behaviour problems.

When dogs are constantly bored, stressed and anxious, their true nature and personality can become hidden by what we might perceive as bad behaviour which is in fact a symptom of a lack of exercise and stimulus.

When dogs don’t fulfil their exercise requirements, they can:

  • become more destructive, chewing and getting into everything at home.
  • become more aggressive. They may be more likely to snap or bite. They may start playing too roughly.
  • become hyperactive, tearing around your home
  • start barking more
  • start being disobedient and naughty
  • start peeing in the home.
  • seem difficult/impossible to train when young
  • pull on the lead because they are literally chomping on the bit to get out there

I hear people all the time saying their dog is naughty, their dog is untrainable, their dog has too much energy etc, etc. Often, I can’t help wondering if it actually might just be one of two things.

  • They chose the wrong breed of dog for their lifestyle
  • Their dog is not getting enough exercise and stimulation

The thing is, a dog which doesn’t get enough enough exercise, stimulation and time outdoors, doesn’t understand why it is being disobedient, naughty and hyperactive…

When I feel frustrated or stressed when I am stuck at home, I recognise that and go for a nice long run in the woods to blow off steam and reset. Dogs cannot recognise that a lack of exercise etc is causing their unhappiness or disobedience, nor can they choose to go for a run in the woods whenever they please. They go out as and when you allow, where you allow, for as long as you allow.

Dogs and humans are similar in that if they spend all day indoors, alone, with a disconnection with nature, their physical and mental health deteriorates. I know from my own personal experience as a human, and I see it in other dogs all the time.

Call To Action

If your dog is housebound most of the day, when you do take him out, make sure it is for a good walk, a long walk, in places with woods, rivers, and large open spaces. Chase him around. Let him explore and sniff around. Take a ball, take some knotted rope. Play fetch and tug with the rope. Let him meet, greet and play with other dogs. Let him do what dogs love to do!

Make it a priority to start getting outside somewhere ‘green’ with your dog; go a bit further, for a bit longer than usual, have some fun and play with your dog. I promise you that both dog and human will reap the rewards. You’ll both be healthier and happier!

For those of you who for whatever reason are unable to get out on epic, fun dog walks in nature, make sure you hire a dog walker who prioritises multi-terrain walks focusing on the exercise and enjoyment needs of your dog. Your dog should have the best time on his walks, like this guy below, he knows how to have fun!