Working in activity every day is key to keeping your furry family members fit and healthy. We’ve got ideas for everyone to bust a move.

By Karen Asp
June 05, 2019
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Exercise helps cats and dogs produce feel-good hormones that strengthen their immunity. Just like people, our pets need regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy—maybe even more so considering the amount of energy some pets have. It's important to remember to fit activeness and playtime into each day for your pets. Think about it this way: you make sure to fit going to the gym into your busy schedule, so shouldn't your pets get the same health considerations? The answer is a resounding yes! Check out some tips for how you can ensure your dog and/or cat stays healthy through play and exercise.

For Dogs

Even if your pup loves her daily walk, you can make exercising more fun and challenging with these expert-recommended ideas.

Walk This Way

When it comes to exercising dogs, walking and running are king. “Continuous aerobic activity strengthens their muscles and heart,” says Ernie Ward, D.V.M., founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. The guideline is 30 minutes to two hours a day of aerobic activity, depending on age and breed.

A few ways to make sure their walks are good exercise: Do splits. Go faster for half of the walk so your dog focuses on moving continuously versus repeatedly stopping to sniff. Try interval training by alternating walking fast for one minute and slower for one minute. You can also take a brief play break. Carry a favorite toy (preferably one you can have a session of fetch with like the ChuckIt, $6.95, Amazon), then play a game at the halfway point.

Weatherproof Their Workout

Don’t let rainy days sideline you. Do laps at a pet-friendly store like Tractor Supply Co., The Home Depot, or PetSmart. At home, play scent games, recommends Stephen DeBono, pet behavior manager at Bideawee. Tell your dog to "stay" while you hide treats, then encourage her to find them.

Related: Dogs Will Actually Lie to Get What They Want

Consider a Doggy Gym or Club

Fit clubs for canines are a good way to log exercise, play, and socialization time. But make sure the facility is run by knowledgeable staff who use reward-based training methods. Many have a free trial visit or a drop-in day rate, which can be as low as $12.

For Cats

Food is a great way to motivate cats to move, but so are games and activities that encourage exploration and curiosity. Try these playful ideas.

Use Their Hunting Instincts

Bringing out their instincts to pounce, stalk, and hunt is a great way to motivate them to exercise, Ward says. Use feather dancers (try these natural Feather Cat Teaser Toys, $9.95, Amazon) and toys that require movement to interact. The goal is three to five minutes of play three times a day.

Make Feeding Fitness-Oriented

Rather than feeding your cat at ground level every meal, Ward suggests putting out one meal low and another high—on a cat perch, for instance. Or try an interactive feeder or a puzzle toy like Doc & Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting Feeder ($19.99, Amazon) that engages their hunt-play instincts and rewards with food.

Related: Yes, Your Cat Really Is Ignoring You

Enrich Their Environment

Look around your house from your cat’s perspective and think about how to make it more interactive. Try a cat perch or cat tree (try or a vertical scratching post that they stand to use. Cats love exploring small spaces. Got an empty box? Put it out and move it every few days to give your cat someplace new to jump in and out of.

As a part of your family, your pets deserve a ton of care and concern when it comes to their health and wellbeing. Make sure you're taking all the steps to keep them as happy as can be through play and exercise.

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