After a particularly dreary and wet winter in North Carolina, we’re loving the signs of spring popping up. If you’re itching to spend more time outdoors these days, don’t forget to include your pets in on the fun!  

Physical activity is important for your furry pals all year round—and it just so happens that keeping your pet moving can have some benefits for your own health.  

Benefits of Pet Exercise 

Exercise supports pets’ mobility as they age. Physical activities, such as taking a neighborhood walk or visiting a park, provide mental stimulation as well.  Pets get bored, and that can lead to destructive behaviors. Jamie, the owner of Lazy Days Pet Sitting Service, has seen this firsthand with some of her clients’ dogs.

“I’ve seen everything from destroyed couch cushions to table legs. They’ll sometimes dig at doors and walls or even rip up rugs, ” Jamie says.

Exercise and active playtime sessions can help reduce these types of incidents. “When we start going for regular walks, pets can experience both physical and mental exertion as they explore nature. When dogs come home tired, they’re typically going to take a nap rather than find something to tear up,” adds Jamie.

Physical exercise also helps with weight management. Keeping your pet’s weight at a healthy number is important, as it lowers the risk of a variety of issues, including diabetes, joint problems, and certain cancers.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), being overweight has the potential to reduce a pet’s lifespan by over two years. 

Benefits for Pet Owners 

Seeing our pets happy, healthy, and engaged is reason enough to keep them active. That said, it’s a nice bonus that you may get some health benefits as well. 

Just having a pet in your life could have some advantages. Research shows that having pets may be associated with lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

And it goes without saying that if you’re joining in on your pet’s exercise sessions, you’ll be getting some much-needed movement yourself. Dog owners, on average, walk over 20 minutes more a day than those who don’t have dogs, according to a 2017 study in BMC Public Health

But you don’t have to limit yourself to walking along your street. Visiting pet-friendly walking trails, parks, and beaches can give some variety for both of you. Not everyone has access to these types of sites, but even running and playing ball at your home can be beneficial.  

Things to Keep in Mind 

As always, there are some precautions to consider before increasing a pet’s physical activity level.  

Your pet’s age, breed, and health status—along with environmental conditions—can impact how much exertion is safe. If your pet has joint issues, for instance, swimming may be a good exercise option.

Before getting started with any exercise routine for your pet, you’ll want to have a chat with your veterinarian to get some guidelines specific to his or her needs.