4 Ways to Get Fit with Fido

by Jay Cardiello for SHAPE.com

Get fit with fido!Get fit with fido!Each day I am awoken by my dog, Sofie. She is my energetic, tail-wagging cheerleader who gets me up faster and with more of a jolt than any Starbucks house blend coffee could ever serve. With leash in hand and Sofie literally pulling me out the door, we sprint across the road to our local park. There, we play a serious game of fetch that raises my spirits and leaves us both winded.

Quite often, dogs are our motivators for getting up and at it, and now they are being recognized as our training partners too. Just last year, researchers from Michigan State University reported that dog owners get, on average, 30 more minutes of physical exercise per week than individuals who do not own dogs and that 60 percent of dog owners actually meet the federal recommendations for moderate exercise. Likewise, a study at the University of Missouri illustrated that dogs are better exercise companions than humans. Think about it. I cannot remember the last time Sofie bailed because she was tired or could not find an outfit for our run in the park.

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In my opinion, a dog can do a lot more for you than any treadmill or cardiovascular machine. They will hold you accountable and provide consistency--both of which no cardio machine can ever do. Another benefit is that dogs can help raise your energy and endorphin levels, which can literally make any stressful day more manageable.

Try the get-fit with Fido workout below. Non-dog owners can give it a try too!

* Be smart and take your pet to the vet before engaging in any exercise program
* Attempt to get a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise a day with your dog
* Carry a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated

1. Walk this way
How does burning up to 300 calories an hour sound? Good, right? Especially, if you can perform that activity with someone that will keep you motivated and always provide positive reinforcement. Take advantage of having a personal cheerleader and step outside to a healthier lifestyle.
Coach's tip: Don't expect pooch to be a hardcore weekend warrior if you're not putting in regular walks during the week. Start off slow so the two of you can spend time and improve your cardiovascular health together.

2. Doggy boot camp
Many cities have organized doggy boot camps that meet in parks or dog runs. Owners and dogs alike can enjoy a series of calisthenics and calorie burning activities. To locate one in your area, check with your veterinarian. If there aren't any close to home , try starting your own! Simply enlist another dog owner to join you on walks, hikes, or a run. This is a rewarding way to achieve accountability and consistency for the health of both you and your pet.
Coach's Tip: If you have difficulty locating another dog owner, ask a dog walker or your local pet shop.

3. Chase me
Forget enlisting a personal trainer or coach to help increase your speed. Just pick up a ball or KONG toy and perform a series of cardiovascular exercises with your pooch. One in particular is what I call the shuttle run. Place two water bottles approximately 10 feet apart from each other. Then drop into a slight squat and begin side shuffling to the other bottle. Keep the dog toy in hand, while encouraging your four-legged friend to follow. Perform as many side shuffles as possible (moving back and forth between the bottles).
Coach's tip: Even though Fido may be attempting to pull the toy out of your hand, do your best to keep your back straight by pretending that you are having ice water poured down your spine.

RELATED: Puppies that Could Use a Workout

4. Make a Friend
If you don't have a dog but want to take advantage of a furry fitness companion, stop by your local shelter or pet store and inquire about volunteering your time to walk a dog. Shelters love having volunteers stop by and play or walk their four-legged friends.
Coach's tip: If you cannot locate a shelter that will allow you take Fido for a walk, try your local pet shop or ask if you can post flyers offering your services to owners.

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