I have the privilege of regularly dog sitting for a frisky Greyhound cross named Buddy. Being a cat person myself, caring for a dog was a new experience and it prompted me to think about how physical activity is viewed in our society. In my first stay with Buddy I was left with very detailed instructions regarding Buddy’s care. I was to take Buddy for at least a 15 minute walk everyday. That seemed simple, 15 minutes is not very long. Surprisingly, such a simple instruction led me to think about a much bigger issue.Dogs don’t view exercise the same way as humans do. For Buddy a walk at the end of my long day was the highlight of his day. For him, walking is as vital as breathing or eating. He didn’t care that I was just getting over a cold or that I had already worked an eight hour day, we were going for a walk. So running nose and all, I put on my boots, slipped the harness over his head and we were off. After stopping to sniff a few bushes, we made our way down the path to a large park. As I followed him up the hill, ankle deep in snow, I couldn’t help but smile. His ears were up, his tail was wagging and he was happy to be out in the fresh air. As we ran through the big snowy field and he chased after the snowballs I threw, I began to feel what I think he was feeling. Exercise made him happy and this really was a highlight of the day.
Too often exercise becomes viewed as a chore. It tends to be that thing we schedule in for the end of the day which keeps getting pushed back and back until suddenly, there’s no time! Take a lesson from our four-legged friends, exercise is fun. In the same way that Buddy would be miserable without that nightly walk, train yourself to look forward to physical activity. If the prospect of a trip to the gym makes you feel like hitting the couch, change your routine. Enroll in an exercise class or try a new piece of equipment. Maybe it is time to get rid of the gym membership and invest the money in something you do like. Perhaps you would rather ski, get a seasons pass. Maybe it is more convenient and feasible to work out a home, invest in a treadmill or cross trainer. Or perhaps you want to join in on some four-legged fun, adopt a pet and have no more excuses.Health Canada recommends 30-60 minutes of moderate effort physical activity every day. The key to achieving that goal is to break it up in to at least 10 minute increments and make it fun. No two people are alike and no set exercise plan will work for everyone. This week take a minute to think about what activities you really enjoy. Don’t limit yourself to the traditional idea of exercise. Going outside and building a snowman with your kids is activity. Starting a snowball fight will really increase your heart rate! Take a yoga class, shovel your walk (and then your neighbors’), join a rec hockey league or go dancing on a Saturday night. And if you have a dog, consider yourself lucky and get out there and enjoy that daily walk. Take a lesson from our four-legged friends, physical activity is fun, make it a part of your healthy lifestyle.
Amy Parker is a Registered Dietitian who regularly writes food and nutrition articles. She graduated from the University of Alberta and completed a one year internship in the Calgary Health Region. She currently specializes in prenatal nutrition and is passionate about helping her clients have the healthiest babies possible. Her other areas of interest include weight loss, childhood obesity and healthy food that tastes good too!
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