Get Fit With Fido, Flicka, and Flipper: How to Exercise With Animals
Summer doesn’t just allow you to escape the confines of the gym. You can pump up your outdoor-training with a cuddly partner: An animal. We already know that people who own pets are healthier — now a slew of companies are offering fitness classes with the animal kingdom, such as sunset horseback rides, dolphin swims, and more. Here are four classes to try.
Dogged determination. Dogs might be the most willing workout partners aside from your best (human) friend — especially since Fido won’t blow off a run to binge-watch “Orange Is The New Black.” In fact, a recent Michigan State University study found that people who walked their dogs were 34 percent more likely to meet federal benchmarks on physical activity and international research published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health came to a similar conclusion.
"If dogs get into a routine of being walked, they will come to expect it each day and become a source of motivation for the owner,” co-author Kelly Evenson, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, tells Yahoo Health.
But you don’t have to solely walk or run. Thank Dog! Bootcamp, a southern California-based company available in half a dozen states with plans to expand across the U.S., offers cardio, free-weight, and stretching classes with pets. While the humans go at it for 60 minutes, dogs take breaks every ten minutes. The company claims people can burn anywhere between 500 to 750 calories per class.
”All of our workouts are scalable,” Adinna Smith, a dog trainer who runs a bootcamp in North Carolina, tells Yahoo Health. That goes for the dogs too: They can be chihuahuas or 12-year-old Labrador retrievers, as long as they — and the owners — pass the initial consultation. (So yes, carrying around your teacup Yorkie counts as strength training.)
Plus, the boot camps put the focus on your pup so you’re not tempted to quit the workout. “It gets you out of your own head,” Smith says. Bonus: While the owners learn to give exercise commands, they in turn become more attuned to their dogs. “The bond that people develop with their pet during the process is amazing,” Smith says.
No Thank Dog! Bootcamp near you? The company’s app is the next best thing.
Swimming with fishes. Fitness programs around the world offer swims with sea creatures (seals in Scotland, sea lions in Cozumel, and turtles in Barbados). And in the U.S., Discovery Cove in Florida and Sea Life Park in Hawaii put you nose-to-rostrum with spinner dolphins. Although, SeaWorld spokesperson Nick Gollattscheck tells Yahoo Health, its swims are “more of a sensory and amazing experience rather than a ‘workout’ experience.”
There are also private companies that bring you where pods of wild dolphin frolic. “For example, here in Hawaii each morning, resident spinner dolphins come into special sheltered bays to rest after a night spent foraging,” dolphin expert Louis Herman, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii and founder of The Dolphin Institute, a Honolulu nonprofit, tells Yahoo Health. While you can swim nearby, be respectful —these creatures are protected under the Marine Mammal Act of 1972, which bars harassment. “The important thing is to be a passive observer,” Herman advises. “Don’t chase the dolphins.”