Friday, September 11, 2009

Dogs and Human Exercise

Here's an interesting survey on human exercise among pet owners and non-pet owners. In summary:

“You are invited to participate in a research study under the direction of Dr. Amanda Visek of the Department of Exercise Science, at The George Washington University. The purpose of the survey is to assess health and physical activity levels of adults in the U.S. of pet-owners and non-pet owners.

They're looking for both physically active and non-active respondents.

I originally saw a post about it here if you'd like a little more info.

This issue always makes me laugh because while studies have implied that owning a pet may increase exercise in people for me the opposite is true. The dogs have forced me to cut way back on my own physical activities in order to make time to care for them and provide for their exercise and training needs. Running and walking/hiking are about the only physical activity we can share and there's only so much I can do of that. Plus walking the dogs is not as strenuous for me as say going to masters swim practice or a 4-5 hour bike ride (not that I do much of those anymore but I live in hope that one day I'll work back up to them). Walks are o.k. but they're time and energy spent away from more effective workouts. Now please, I'm not an exercise snob and I'm not at all suggesting that there's anything wrong with or inferior about walking for people in general. If that's what you're doing for exercise then good for you, seriously, I'm a big fan of exercise for everybody and walking is great for a lot of people. But it doesn't do a whole lot for me personally. I don't get that same adrenaline rush from it that I do from other things and I tend to daydream and lose focus when I'm walking so I don't do it briskly enough to have much of a training effect. Plus the dogs are always trying to sniff and leave incendiary pee mails on the other dogs' blogs and it's often a battle to keep them moving. Sure it's exercise but it's nothing compared to what I was getting before the dogs invaded my life.

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, nobody forced me to get all these dogs and I knew full well I would have to make sacrifices to my training regime. I have no regrets at all, I love training the dogs and all that exercise probably wasn't good for me anyway. But I know so many runners/triathletes with obese dogs because they think a dog will be a great fit for their active lifestyle then they don't want to make the sacrifices to their own training regimes to look after the dog properly and it ends up laying around the house eating bon bons and watching Oprah. Dogs take time and energy and fitting their needs to those of an already active person isn't always feasible without some human compromise.

On the other hand I can't even count how many people over the years have told me they're trying to get in shape to run their dogs in agility, another aspect of the issue that I don't think the survey addressed. That would be an interesting aspect to explore.

I suppose the larger issue is the general population of pet owners-are they really getting out there and exercising more than their non-pet owning counterparts? Will be intersting to see the results of the survey.


  1. Hmm ... I must be somewhere in the middle --- well beyond couch potato, but nowhere near triathlete or ultra-marathoner. Much of my exercise does include the dogs, yet if/when we ever get good enough to really run agility, I'll probably need to take more of Lori Hansen's human agility classes. I really did get much faster on my feet when I trained with her.

    Simply put, pear-shaped girls make for slow running.

  2. As usual, some of the questions' phrasings left me puzzled over how to answer. Did my best.

    I'm not sure whether the dogs make it easier or harder for me to walk. I'm more likely to suffer if I don't take them for a walk (because they don't get enough exercise & turn into pests) but I'm also likely to not go because Tika is a pill on leash when other dogs are around and even with the nopull harness she pulls--and now boost is getting into pulling, too, because I never practice just walking her any more.

  3. I had the same reaction you did to the survey. I felt that the "slant" of it was designed to find out if having dogs encouraged people to become more active by walking them. I'm already very active, and like you, the time I spend hiking with them and occasionally walking them on a paved trail takes away from longer, more intense training (mostly cycling for me). tired

  4. Um, yeah, that last "tired" is superfluous. Don't know what it's doing there! Ha ha. Weird.

  5. Yeah, can't take the dogs on bike rides, that's my problem too.