An unhealthy lifestyle can lead to severe physical, emotional, and mental health issues. For example, by not eating right and neglecting exercise, you’re likely to join the more than 1 in 5 adults in all U.S. states and territories deemed obese.
Along with obesity, an unhealthy lifestyle leads to serious health risks like heart disease and diabetes, low energy, and inactivity.
This is all the more reason to embrace a healthier lifestyle. Doing so is much easier when you have someone to do it with you. Family and friends are great accountability partners. But we can do you one better. What about including your dog in your health goals?
Embarking on a health journey with your dog is a mutually beneficial experience. You get to work on your physical and mental health and emotional well-being together. Participating in dog-friendly workout classes gives you a chance to socialize. The bond between you and your dog deepens as well.
Here’s how to include your dog in your health goals and live healthier together.
Find out where you and your dog are health-wise
Understanding where you are health-wise will help you determine the safest, most productive plan for becoming healthier.
For example, hereditary traits can impact your health. You can inherit metabolic characteristics from your parents that affect how well you store food and use energy. Having characteristics that cause you not to store and use energy from food efficiently can lead to an inability to maintain a healthy weight. And that can lead to the health risks mentioned above.
There are things you can do to navigate these traits and still lose weight. However, you wouldn’t know without a doctor’s help. As a result, you might give up on your health goals altogether because nothing is working.
You can find pertinent health information like this in an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP). They can help you develop the best plan of action to help you navigate any unique issues and sustain a healthy lifestyle.
You can do the same thing for your dog. Take them to the veterinarian for a general checkup to find out where they stand health-wise. The vet can tell you if your dog has any chronic illnesses or injuries and how they can gradually improve their fitness level.
You can implement appropriate proactive health measures when you know the ins and outs of your and your dog’s health situation.
Set SMART health goals
Once you understand where you are, it’s time to define where you want to go with your health.
Yes, you want to be healthier overall. But specific goals can be just the motivation to stick with it long-term. It keeps you accountable for your commitment to a healthier life. It also keeps your dog progressing.
The SMART goal-setting framework can help you create health goals that are structured and worthwhile. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This framework ensures that your goals:
- Are as detailed as possible;
- Can be measured through metrics;
- Are easily accomplished;
- Are relevant to you and your overall mission;
- Have a timeline attached to them.
Here’s an example of how you can apply this framework to your health goals and include your dog in them:
To lose 20 lbs, me and [your dog’s name] will exercise three times a week and eat a healthier diet. We will attend one dog-friendly exercise class, do two at-home workouts per week, and eat three balanced meals daily.
You can also create separate SMART goals for your dog if that suits you better. Whichever avenue you take, use this framework to ensure your health goals are meaningful and you can execute them.
Create a workout routine that includes dog-friendly exercises
Now, it’s time to create a workout routine that’s mindful of your needs and interests. Building a workout routine with dog-friendly exercises is easier than you might think.
You can start with the walks you’re taking with your dog daily. If you’ve been letting your dog do their business in the backyard and aren’t yet in the habit of taking daily walks, this is a perfect time to start.
If you’re already performing one walk a day, commit to walking your dog twice daily. Map out a route that you and your dog can complete comfortably.
As you build your strength and stamina, you can take longer, more challenging walks.
Incorporate dog-friendly exercises along the way, like jogging or tricep dips on a bench with your dog in your lap.
You can also look for doggie and me workout classes to keep your exercise routine exciting.
Make sure you both eat healthy meals
As important as regular exercise is for your and your dog’s health, nutrition is just as vital. All the hard work you do exercising gets canceled when every meal is high in fat, sugar, and calories.
Food is meant to fuel your body. Same thing with your dog. A healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, healthy fats, and whole grains offers the following health benefits to both of you:
- More energy;
- Healthy bones and teeth;
- Stronger muscles and joints;
- Fight off illnesses and diseases better;
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Experts say two meals a day is generally good for dogs. You should eat 2-3 meals a day, with room for a couple of snacks between those meals.
Go on the hunt for nutritious, dry, and fresh food for your dog at your local pet store. Pick the brains of associates there to land on the best options for your furry friend.
Pay the same attention to your diet. Go so far as to work with a nutritionist to ensure you’re eating three balanced meals a day and are only snacking on the healthiest options.
Finally, you can eat alongside your dog to transform mealtimes into a bonding experience.
Final thoughts on achieving health goals
Your willingness to work toward a healthier lifestyle is admirable. Take your dog along your journey so that you can be the healthiest version of yourselves and live long, happy lives together.
Miles Oliver is a proud dog lover and an outdoor enthusiast. He often writes on his patio with a hot cup of tea and his 4-year-old border collie mix by his feet. When Miles is not working as an independent freelance writer, he is most likely mountain biking and roaming the great outdoors with his four-legged companion.