Exercising With Your Pets

If you have a pup, you know that the little guy needs exercise—but it should be more than just a daily walk. A recent study by the National Research Council found that one out of every four dogs and cats in the Western world is obese. People are at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease with a lack of physical activity, and the same holds true for our sweet pets too.

And there are lots of opportunities to get out and moving with your dog—which means there's exercise motivation in it for you too! In fact, this month, The Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon (benefiting the ASPCA) takes place, where runners can actually walk or run with their pups.

But there are other reasons to exercise with your animal—because it's good for both of you, according to Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital: "In addition to helping with conditions such as joint disease, diabetes, and respiratory difficulty, plenty of exercise helps dogs avoid behavior issues that may arise due to excess energy or boredom," she says. "Exercising with your dog is win-win: good for both you and your dog physically, and mentally as well! Just be sure to check with your doctor, and your pet's veterinarian, about safe types and levels of activity you can enjoy together."

In fact, "Always talk to your own doctor if you plan to participate; activity level should be gradually increased. To avoid heat stroke, on warm days avoid exercising your dog during the middle of the day; it's cooler in the early morning or evening," she says. "If it is not safe for you to have vigorous activity, you can exercise your dog by throwing an object for her to fetch, such as a ball or Frisbee. Even moderately paced long walks are good exercise for both you and your dog if either one of you has medical restrictions."

Boom, you just did something good for yourself. Really! Looking at photos of cute and cuddly elicits a desire in us to protect it—but, since they're just photos, we resort to that squee-filled, "I could just eat him up!" feeling.

And speaking of squee, Greatist has a roundup about all the research pointing to other reasons that LOLcats and teacup piggy photos are good for you...like that the cute photos may actually help you do your job better. Participants in a study by Hiroshima University were able to accomplish tasks more quickly and efficiently after aww-ing over cute photos—and they experienced instant mood boosts.

So when you're at work or in class and you can't experience the health benefits (and joy!) of hanging with your pet—like lower blood pressure and less stress (there's a reason some docs prescribe pups instead of Prozac!)—you can do the next best thing: Look at cute photos of them. Hey, like these!

As someone who is actually considering adopting a dog—even though she already has three cats that she adopted about six months ago (I mean, can we get an intervention going here? Also, please don't tell my husband!), this is really, really good news. The American Heart Association just released a new report that will make you want to go smooch your pets ASAP. As if you didn't want to do that already.

According to the latest issue of the journal Circulation, owning a pet seems to have heart-health benefits for the owner—and, ultimately, could result in a longer life. The report shows that the benefits were especially prevalent for dog owners, though pet ownership in general has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease overall depression.

The experts say that there may be a casual relationship between owning a pet and decreased cardiovascular risk. And this isn't the first study to show that pet ownership comes with health benefits: Other research has shown that having a pet can lower your blood pressure and increase feelings of happiness.