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‘It is OK to be tired after exercise — it is not OK to be exhausted or hurting with your dog'

[From Tufts December 2010 Issue]

Want to start an exercise program with your dog? It’s easy. Take your dog for a walk. Every day. Twice a day if you can manage it. If you’re both out of shape, check with your own doctor and your dog’s veterinarian, then start slowly and build up.

“We believe in starting where you’re at,” says Robert F. Kushner, MD. “If you’re a couch potato, start off with bite-size pieces: 5-, 10- or 15-minute walks.”

Try to walk 30 or more minutes a day. If you and your dog are already walking 30 minutes daily, increase the amount of time or increase your intensity by walking faster.

“Successful conditioning gets the attention of the systems that support exercise such as muscle, bones, tendons, and heart by pushing them just a bit past their comfort zone but does not damage them,” says Michael S. Davis, DVM.

“Too much stress, and you break something. Not enough stress, and nothing happens, except perhaps for some weight loss. Not stressed frequently enough, and the body scavenges the resources that built the additional muscle, bone, etc., and the capacity of the system starts to decrease back to baseline. Ultimately, it is a judgment call, and the thing to keep in mind is that it is OK, even desirable, to be tired after exercise. It is not OK to be exhausted or hurting.”

The additional advantages of exercising with your dog? You don’t need to wear Lycra, and you don’t need any special equipment other than a leash and good walking shoes.

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