Physical activity contributes substantially to our health. It helps us to control our weight, reduces our risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. It improves our mood, strengthens our bones, and increases our chances of living longer. We know it’s good for us, but we often need help sticking with an exercise regimen. Your pooch just might be the key to your exercise success.

A recent study by the University of Missouri-Columbia, found that owning a pet can encourage exercise and result in weight loss. In the yearlong study, participants walked dogs for 20 minutes a day 5 days a week. They lost an average of 14 pounds in 50 weeks. Some participants said that they continued, not for their own health, but because they knew it was good for the animal.

A Canadian study found that dog owners walked an average of 300 minutes a week, nearly twice the 168 minutes that non-dog owners walked. That study suggested that obligation toward the pet was a possible motivator.

Teaming up with your pooch can be as much fun as it is rewarding. Your dog’s energy and enthusiasm coupled with your sense of obligation towards his health and happiness can be a powerful motivator for your exercise routine. There are a great many physical activities that you can share with your dog.

A brisk daily walk with your dog is a great way to begin. Start with 15 minutes and slowly increase the time you walk together so that your both build up stamina and your dog’s paw pads have a chance to thicken. Vary the route, the terrain, and the pace. Add skipping, side-stepping, or walking backwards to add interest and keep both your heart rates up. Always carry water and a collapsable bowl, especially for longer outings. In hot weather test the surface temperature of asphalt, sand, or stone to be certain that your dog’s paws aren’t being burned. In snowy or icy conditions check his paws for ice build up.

Hiking is another excellent buddy experience for both you and your dog, offering new terrain, new sights, and a profusion of new scents. Again, remember to carry water for both of you, and if you hike in a area with ticks, see that both of you are protected and examined for ticks when you return home.

DogWatch’s Big Leash can enhance both walking and hiking with your dog. Once your dog is trained to respond to the collar you can give him freedom to explore. With the two-way communication Big Leash provides, you will know how far he is from you, and can remind him not too stray too far. If night falls, you can activate the collar LED from the controller so that you never lose sight of your canine exercise buddy.

Agility training can also be an opportunity for fun and exercise. As your dog runs through the course you can run alongside. Look for a course at the local dog park or doggie daycare center. You might even want to take part in some friendly agility competition.

There are many more ways to share physical activity with your pooch, such as jogging, swimming, playing fetch or frisbee. Remember to stay hydrated, stay safe, and, above all, have fun!