When it Comes to Exercise, Think Like a Dog


Dogs are different. Dogs and humans are made to move, but we do not exercise for the same reasons. People exercise to appear a certain way on the outside, or improve their health on the inside. We exercise to look and feel better, but dogs exercise because they can.

How Much Exercise is Necessary?

The amount of exercise we need often depends on activities we do throughout the day, as well as our diet. As a certified personal trainer of people, I can confidently say that we need 30-60 minutes of exercise everyday (some of which should be vigorous). This of course varies based on health, lifestyle and diet.

If we relax for too long, or too often, we become less able to move. The saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”, is true when it comes to exercise. Movement is one of the keys to living a healthier life. How much exercise does a dog need? It depends.

Abbey enjoys getting exercise at the dog park.
Psst, are you ready to exercise?

Enjoy Moving

Dogs are not concerned with their appearance, or what is going on inside their bodies. Most dogs exercise simply because they enjoy moving. Throughout my personal training career I have learned that most people do not enjoy exercising. We like to look and feel good, but we do not like the path we must take to get there.

We can learn a few things from our four legged friends, and one of those things involves a mindset change – exercise can be fun. Dogs get natural forms of exercise in several ways.

  • Chasing prey
  • Tracking scents
  • Playing with other dogs
  • Running in circles
  • Swimming, or playing in water
  • Investigating their surroundings
New friends at this dog friendly place in San Antonio.

Dogs do some of (or all of) these because they can. It comes naturally. Dogs exercise for the fun of exercising. They do not complain about boredom, pain, or the work involved. They just do it.

How much exercise do dogs need? Well, I like to say “as much as they can get!” Some is better than none, except in cases of sickness and injury. Exercising more often is better for overall health. Dogs need to move, and so do we. Let’s look at exercise through the eyes of our furry friends – with enjoyment.

Don’t workout because you must. Do things that are fun because you enjoy doing them. Is cardio a drag? Do fun things which increase your heart rate naturally. Does weight lifting bore you? Find ways outside of the gym to work your muscles.

Dog training and dog agility at the dog park.

Ways to Enjoy Cardio

My Rhodesian Ridgeback, Abbey, loves sprinting which is considered a vigorous form of exercise. However, I am not a fan of running for the sake of running. Here are some alternative ways to make cardio more fun.

  • Dancing
  • Parkour
  • Sports
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Climbing (stairs or otherwise)
  • Boxing

Build Muscle Without Weights

I enjoy weight lifting, but I understand why many people do not. Abbey has strong and bulky legs, but she doesn’t need to lift weights. If you do not enjoy weight lifting, here are some alternative ways to build muscle without weights.

  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Rock climbing
  • Yard work
  • Farming
  • Martial Arts
  • Wood working
  • Backpacking
Ripping apart the water at dog friendly Pedernales Falls
Playing in the water is fun

Workout With Your Dog

Is self motivation a hindrance? Team up with your best friend and each of you will benefit simultaneously. Here are some activities you and your dog can do together.

  • Dog agility
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Partner exercises
  • Dog Training

Most activities you can do with your dog are well known. It may take some creativity to come up with fun alternatives. You can find more details and ideas in our article about working out with dogs.

How much exercise do you get, and which activities do you enjoy?


I’ve been a personal trainer for nearly a decade, certified by ACE, NASM and WITS. Helping people reach their fitness goals and potentially live longer is a true honor. I have over 1,000 hours of coaching experience with seniors, youth athletes and individuals with disabilities.

I can help you feel better, and live longer. Even though I share workouts on this site, you are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed here. Let’s move better, live longer and wander more often.

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David Earley

CPT, CES



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