People With Dogs Exercise More

Booker the Boston Terrier after a rousing game of tug!Do you have a dog? If you do, chances are you get more exercise than your neighbors who don’t have a dog. A recent British study shows that people with dogs exercise more than those who don’t own dogs. In fact, dog-owners are 4 times more likely to get the recommended amount of daily activity.

Hundreds of families in Britain were surveyed

The study involved hundreds of English households and suggests that just the fact of having a dog can influence how much exercise people get. The study was published in April in Scientific Reports and involved first homeowners in a community in Liverpool. Eventually the study involved hundreds of participants from over 300 neighborhoods, more than half of whom were dog-owners. Scientists reviewed results of surveys and actual activity monitors that people wore for an entire week. The results showed that people with dogs spent more than 300 minutes per week walking with their dogs, compared to about 100 minutes walking by people without dogs.

It follows naturally …

It makes sense, too. If you have a dog, you’re likely to take it for a walk. And if it’s a nice day, the walk will be longer, your pace will be more rapid. You’ll breathe more deeply and feel like exercising even more.

Exercise More with Your Dog

There are other ways to get exercise with your dogs too. I like to chase my dogs and have them chase me in the backyard. I’m lucky enough to have a fenced yard. It’s not big, but neither are my dogs. We run around like maniacs – it’s great exercise for all of us! Plus, it’s a fun way to reinforce the recall – or “Come”! I call my dog’s name and take off running in the opposite direction. He’ll chase me and, since he’s faster than I am, catch up to me. When he catches me, I turn around, cheer for him, grab his collar and give him a little treat. And start again!

Another way to get exercise with my dog is a rousing game of tug! Sometimes I get down on my knees – more my dog’s level – and play with him. I switch hands from time to time so that both arms get a workout. If your dog doesn’t like to tug, chances are he’ll like to chase a toy. Pull a toy along the floor – not too fast or your dog will be discouraged – and let your dog catch it! A game of tug ensues! Fun for all, and pretty soon you’ll both be out of breath.

Many aspects of fitness

The aspects of fitness are more than physical

Fitness is not just physical – there are many aspects of fitness.

We’ll be focusing on each of these aspects in more depth soon, but an overview might be helpful here. Because it’s the most obvious, let’s talk about the aspects of physical fitness. Health, balance, strength, cardio fitness are all elements of physical fitness. What you do to increase one aspect of physical fitness helps another.

Balance is one aspect of physical fitness

Balance moves like this one also improve strength.

As an example, by practicing your balance (and you can get a free Week of Balance by subscribing to my newsletter!) will increase your strength. By doing a cardio workout, you can also increase your strength and balance – think of hops and side-to-side leaps. Even jumping in place can improve your balance.

If you focus on improving your strength, you’ll probably also improve your balance. Those one-legged squats will definitely challenge your balance while at the same time increase your strength. Add a pair of dumbbells and you’re working upper body as well as lower body strength. (Talk about multi-tasking!)

Eating clean will also improve fitness

Eating clean helps your overall fitness.

We can’t talk solely about physical fitness, because so many aspects of your life can affect it! If you focus on eating clean, you’ll improve your overall health, you’ll feel more like exercising and thereby improve your strength and cardio fitness!

And by attempting to eat a cleaner diet, you’ll not only probably lose a little weight, you’ll be cleaning out your system. More fiber in your vegetables and fewer processed foods will tend to move things along in your digestive system.

Mental fitness may be more difficult

Mental fitness is like a dresser. Here's an organized drawer. An achievement to strive for.

More complex is the aspect of mental fitness. I like to think of this as a bureau, or dresser. Currently mine is a mess. Socks are mashed in with underwear, t-shirts and pajamas. There are even swim goggles and pantyhose in there. There’s no order in those drawers. Too many ideas, problems, chores, and other things to do are running around in my head. How’s yours?

First off, a plan is probably needed. I need to figure out what to do with all those items. How best to organize them? I really should start to write everything down. Then categorize them. This is called a “brain dump.” I should really do this every month or so.

If all the aspects of fitness work together – body and mind, happiness ensues. I’ll have to try it. Let’s start together!

Still stiff and sore

Sore four days after the workout!

Renegade row - one of the killer moves in Saturday's workoutYou all know I work out four or five times a week. And I don’t baby myself. I try to do a challenging workout and push myself every time. Saturday I did a workout that I’ve done numerous times in the past. It’s not an easy workout, but I usually don’t have to modify it (much…). But my lower body is still stiff and sore four days after the workout!

Every time I sit down or stand up. Every step I take. I’m sore. (Sounds like a song, right? But it’s not…)

I’m no stranger to muscle soreness

Since I’ve been exercising for many, many years, muscle stiffness is nothing new to me. But it doesn’t usually last this long!

So, how do we recover from having sore muscles from exercising?

On the mend?

In a nutshell, do more! Keep on exercising. Keep moving. Hydrate! Yes! When we’re sore after a workout, it’s important to keep moving. The recovery, while not fast enough, is much faster than if you baby yourself and be sedentary. The more you move, the faster you’ll feel normal. I’m hoping. At work, I try not to sit more than 20 minutes at a time anyway, but this week I’m up every 10 minutes and walking around. It’s easier to get up the next time if there’s less time between! I still feel like I’m waddling (inner thigh soreness), but it’s getting better.

And yesterday I walk / ran – almost my normal workout for a Monday. It hurt, but I did it.

Hydrate!

And hydrate! Drink more water. It’s possible that I neglected this step on Saturday, the day of my workout, because I was busy the rest of the day. Drink water during your workout, after your workout, the rest of the day of your workout – and every day after that! It’s good for your overall health, as well as helping your muscles heal!

Are you stuck in a rut in your exercise routine?

Our routines can get us stuck in a rut

Mix up your workouts so you don't get stuck in a rutWe humans love our routines and habits. And I always stress that routines are important in our goal setting. But our habits in our fitness regimen can be a bad thing. Don’t get stuck in a rut!

The danger of over-exercise

If we do too much of an exercise that works certain muscles, we run the risk of over-exercise and damaging those muscles. In strength workouts, all the experts agree that it’s important to rest the muscles we work for at least 24 hours before working them again. It goes against logic, but resting a muscle group is important for strengthening it! If you like to use weights every day, then work different muscle groups on sequential days.

And if we do the same exercises every time, we’ll hit a plateau and won’t be able to move beyond it. Let’s say you run on the treadmill (my personal nemesis) every day at the same speed for the same length of time. Pretty soon you won’t be able to run faster or farther. You’ll be stuck at 20 minutes and 4 miles an hour (as an example).

Mix up your exercise routine!

On the other hand, if you use an interval setting with hills, valleys, slower speeds and faster speeds on the treadmill, you’ll be able to run farther and faster.

Don’t forget that it’s also important to combine cardio and strength work in your exercise. A day of yoga or pilates is also a good idea for mixing things up. As humans, we get bored easily, so mixing up your workouts keeps you out of that rut and interested. Or as interested as you can be in an exercise program.

So, yes – be sure to schedule your workouts every day at the same time, but mix up your workouts!

 

Yet another study supports what we know …

Another study that supports what we already know: that those who exercise  are in better health than those who don’t.

Cycling and exercise for health

82-year-old Norman Lazarus, a professor emeritus at London’s Kings College, requested that a study be performed on the health of older active cyclists. King’s College and the University of Birmingham took him up on it. Researchers compared 125 amateur cyclists, ages 55 through 79, with a group of people ages 57 through 80 and with a younger group ages 20 through 36. All of the noncycling group were healthy but did not exercise regularly.

Lazarus had noted that he and his riding group were not experiencing many of the frailties, such as joint problems or chronic illness, that affect so many other people as they age. His group had been avid cyclists for most of their lives.

Less evidence of aging in cyclers

The researchers found that those who exercised – in this case cycled – regularly did not show evidence of the outward signs of aging.

The male cyclists in the study had to be able to ride 62 miles in 6½ hours, and females had to be able to ride 37 miles in 5½ hours, according to the study, published in the journal Aging Cell. I’m not a cyclist but seems like a fairly intense regimen.

Less loss of strength

In a series of lab tests, researchers found cyclists did not lose muscle mass and strength like the noncyclists did. The cyclists also stopped the clock on increased body fat and cholesterol, and the men’s testosterone levels remained high.

Improved immune systems

One of the most surprising findings was that the cyclists’ immune systems were equivalent to those of healthy young people in the study, as measured by the presence of immune cells, known as T-cells. The cells are produced by the thymus gland and typically start to decrease as the thymus begins to shrink after age 20. Depleted immune systems are one of the greatest barriers to health in the elderly.

Intense exercise is the key

We know from other studies that cycling is not the important part of this – the intense exercise is.

The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes a week of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.

The moral

The moral here – do something! It’s better than nothing. And even if you can’t do even moderately intense exercise now, you soon will be! So get moving!

A first look at guilt

Guilt and exercise / or not exercising

I’ve been thinking about guilt lately, specifically how it relates to exercise.

Are you torn between your guilt about exercising and not exercising. Spending time working out or with family? Do feel like your brain is on the treadmill even when you’re not?

Have you felt guilty about not exercising?

Or guilty about exercising when you could be doing something for your family?

I’m here to tell you to get over it!

If you’re doing something productive –

If you feel guilty about not exercising – are you doing something else that’s worthwhile? Are you working? Earning a living? Helping your family with something? If you’re engaged in an activity that’s productive, then you can work out another time. Schedule it! Put it in your calendar! (One that you actually refer to on a regular basis.)

If you’re not doing something else worthwhile, then you should feel guilty, so get up and move!

Seriously, though, you’re probably spending more time and energy feeling guilty than you would if you’d stick in a DVD and did a workout. You’ll feel terrific afterward – virtuous and healthy!

Are you exercising when you should be doing something else?

Are there really important things that you should be doing when you’re working out? Or are they just things to get to … some time?

If they’re the really important things, go do that and, again, schedule a workout.

Now, only you can determine if those things you’re thinking about are “really important things” that should be done now, or if they can wait.

The key, it seems, is to prioritize tasks. And then use your calendar so you’re sure not to forget the specific tasks that you need to get done.

But don’t leave out exercise!

If you’re feeling guilty about spending time on yourself when you could be doing other things for family, friends, or work, then don’t.

By spending a little time (as little as 30 minutes a day 4-5 times a week) on yourself exercising, you’ll be gaining a healthier you. A you that will be around longer for your family. A you that can spend the quality time with your family that they deserve. And a you that will be more productive at work.

So stop feeling guilty. Write down and prioritize the things you need to do.

In a funk?

You may have sensed from my last post that I’m in a funk. I’m feeling my age. I had to really push myself yesterday to do my workout, and the day before that wasn’t great either.

Some days are like that. Some weeks are like that. The cycles we go through in our lives leave an impression. The seasons affect us. The weather affects us.

It had been cool and rainy here for days, which certainly did not help things. Joints were stiff and creaky. People were in bad moods.

When I’m in a bad mood, I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to associate with anyone. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Those days I wish I could put myself in a bubble with a “Do Not Disturb!” sign on me.

Of course, that’s not possible.

So what I’ve learned to do is paste a smile on my face during working hours and try to be as helpful as humanly possible to the people I meet. And hope that the smiles I receive in return will make an impression on my brain and stick there!

It’s really hard to keep that up indefinitely, though. On days like that, it’s all I can do to be nice to the dogs!

And working out yesterday was not fun. I did not want to do it, but I made myself. I wanted to quit after every exercise for the first half of the workout. By the second half, I conned myself into finishing – “You’re more than halfway done. You can do this!” And I did. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, but it was done!

And afterward I took a long warm shower with “Citrus Fresh” essential oil dropped onto the baking soda disc, which was delightful. And I felt better when it was done – quite virtuous!

It’s nice and bright and warm today, so hopefully that will put a more positive spin on things.

Let me know how you combat your blue funk days!

Feeling my age…

Every once in a while my body reminds me that I’m over 60. (Yikes! How did that happen?! Anyone else feel that way?)

This morning I woke up stiff. My back hurt, my knees hurt, I did something to my hamstring, my ankle hurts, my hands hurt.

I guess the combination of standing around all weekend on concrete at an agility trial and a plyometric workout yesterday was too much for the old bod.

I not only enjoy running my dog in agility, I also enjoy watching others compete. I can see how people handle especially tricky parts of the course to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. While the agility course itself was on turf, spectators watched from the concrete floor. And I’m so short that sitting down means that I can’t see… And I certainly wasn’t going to skip or change yesterday’s workout because I was on my feet all weekend. All the jumping in that plyometric workout helps keep me agile.

But I knew that if I cater to my aches and pains, I’d just be complaining all day and moving would be even more difficult. So, I got up, stretched, and went through my normal morning routine. It may have been a tad bit slower than normal, but things needed to get done.

I’m more careful today to get up and walk around more often so my hips and knees don’t stiffen up even more. And I am trying to drink more water to stay hydrated. This also helps keep everything moving.

It’s also important that I not skip today’s workout. I have an upper body workout planned, focusing on the arms, chest, back and core. Yes, the lower body is also involved (no sitting!), but the focus will be on the upper body. It’s imperative to keep moving. Why?

Dog obedience class is tonight!

Bored with your workout?

Are you bored with doing the same kind of workout day after day? You know that I’m not a fan of working out. I do it because I want to do other active things. And the workouts that I do are short, so I’m not getting bored during the workout. I switch off between a couple of workout programs. 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme are incredibly effective. And PiYo is great for getting strong and lean. But that still doesn’t mean that I don’t get tired of doing the same programs.

So I switch it up. Every couple of months I’ll do a week of yoga. I love yoga – nothing gives me the sense of peace and calm as a good yoga practice. Or leaves me feeling at one with my body. Or I’ll do a week of Pilates. I don’t love it as much as yoga, but it still gives me that strengthening and stretching I need. Or I’ll do a couple of days in a week on the treadmill. I really hate running (more than other workouts!), but I enjoy competing with my dog in agility. He’s a fast little dog, so I need more speed and endurance.

And then after I have my switch-off days, I’ll go back to my old standards and enjoy them more. I’ll do the plyometric workout in the 21 Day Fix Extreme program and realize again that jumping the right way is really not bad for my knees. Or I’ll do the “Drench” workout in PiYo and remember that I really do love the flow sequence.

So, when you start to dread your workouts (even more than usual), switch it up for a week. Do a different program for a while. You’ll engage your brain, which is always good. And you’ll also be cross-training, confusing your muscles, which makes your workouts more effective.

Hate to exercise?

Having fun during 21 Day FixDo you hate to exercise? I’m not a fan either, but I do it because I like to do other stuff, as you know. But if that isn’t enough of a motivation, and you know that you need to exercise, start small.

Just walk for 15 minutes. Or 5 minutes. If it’s a nice day, just tell yourself that you’re going outside and breathe for a few minutes. Pretty soon you’ll be taking a few steps and you’re around the block.

Starting small leads to big things! Tell yourself you’ll do 15 jumping jacks, and pretty soon it’s 30 because 15 is easy.

Tell yourself you’ll jump for 2 minutes. Just up and down – maybe not even leaving the ground. And pretty soon it’s 5 minutes. Full squats and everything.

Tell yourself you’re just taking the dog for a walk. You’re snapping on his leash and pretty soon you’re both walking for 20 minutes. It’s good for both of you! (Just don’t forget pick-up material!)

It’s finally starting to feel like spring here, and the garden needs work. Tell yourself that you’re going outside for 5 minutes to pull weeds. Pretty soon you’ll find that you’ve been outside working for a half hour. A few weeds turns into raking and cutting back, and who knows what else!

Just don’t overdo it! If you haven’t exercised in a while, and those 5 minutes of walking feels too easy, just do 6 and see how you feel the next day. The goal is consistency – if you’re too sore to get up the next day, you’re not going to exercise and then you’ll forget all about it for the future. And that’s bad.

So it’s okay to start really small and build up. 5 minutes today, 10 minutes tomorrow. Then maybe add in a little jog for a few seconds and see how you go from there. Remember, there’s no deadline!