How to escape your exercise slump

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published January 28, 2020

Key Takeaways

Hit a workout slump? Already lagging on your New Year’s resolution to exercise more? Too exhausted to care after a few 28-hour shifts? If you want to put new life into your New Year’s resolution to get more active, maybe you should consider exercising with your pet. It would improve health for both of you. Other benefits include increased socialization, an improved bond, and spending more time outdoors. These are all things that can go a long way in easing the stress and burnout that many hard-working physicians face.

Consider that less than 25% of people who begin a diet and exercise plan actually stick to that plan for more than a month. Also consider that in 2015-2016, the prevalence of obesity in the United States was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million adults, according to the CDC.

And—perhaps not surprisingly—our pets also have a high prevalence of obesity. According to the 2018 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention survey, 55.8% of dogs and 59.5% of cats were considered overweight or obese. Furthermore, 68% of pet owners had tried to help their pet lose weight.

What better motivator to get active than with a happy, lovable dog? Most dogs would be overjoyed at the prospect of getting outside, walking, running, or doing anything with you. 

‘But I don’t have a dog’

If you don’t have a dog, you can borrow a friend’s or a neighbor’s dog (dog walkers cost money so, really, you’re doing them a favor), or volunteer to take a dog for an activity-filled day at your local shelter or animal refuge. Really any dog will do, as long as there’s consent. Many local animal shelters accept volunteers to take their dogs out for runs or walks. Just think of how cooped up and attention-deprived shelter dogs must be. This is nothing short of brilliant multitasking: You’ll be getting more active, the dog will be getting more active, and you’ll be helping a dog in need. Call your local shelter for more information.

With this in mind, here are some activities that would be perfect for enjoying with the dog of your choice:


Yes, doga (dog + yoga) is a thing. And dogs are naturals at this. After all, what is the downward-facing dog pose but an exact replica of a dog stretching? Doga is really all about enforcing your bond with your pet. You’ll help them do poses, and they will act as a prop for yours. Some instructors even include doggy massage and acupressure tasks.

Running or hiking

Humans and dogs are both creatures of habit. Regularly taking your dog for a run with you will make it a habit for both of you. After a long workday, your habit might not be enough to get you out there. But, the sight of your furry, lovable dog with a leash in his mouth or standing next to your running shoes may just be the push you need to get out the door and hit the pavement.

Hiking is the #1 activity to do with your dog. And we can see why. What beats getting outside, moving, through green spaces, with your best friend at your side? Before you go, make sure to plan for your dog’s needs on the trail, as well as your own. Pack food, water, and accessories to keep you both hydrated and occupied. Also be sure to make sure dogs are allowed where you plan to hike, and to keep your dog on a leash. 

However, a word of caution: In extreme heat and humidity, it may be best for you both to skip the run. Running in extreme heat or humidity can put you at risk for heat stroke. Dogs cannot sweat like humans do to regulate their body temperature (that’s why they pant). Also, if you have a brachycephalic dog—like bulldogs, pugs, or bull mastiffs—their shortened snouts means they have to work harder to breathe than other dogs. Keeping your runs to less than 5 miles with these breeds, in any conditions, should help you avoid any problems.

Stand-up paddleboarding

Paddleboarding is another great sport for you and your dog to enjoy together. It’ll work out your mid-back muscles, shoulders, arms, and abs. And, it’ll provide your dog with plenty of mental stimulation from just being out on the water and with you.

Start out slow, on a calm day. Your dog can ride on the nose of the paddleboard while you stand behind. For your first few rides, you may want to kneel behind your dog instead of standing until your pup gets comfortable. You may also want to outfit your dog with a personal flotation device (try this one from EzyDog). Doing so will make it safer for your pooch in the event that they go overboard. It’ll also make it easier for you to lift your dog back onto the paddleboard (most doggie vests have a handle). Another plus: If your dog gets tired of sitting on the paddleboard, Fido can take a swim next to you.


Kayaking is a great workout for your arms, core, and back, and it will mentally stimulate your dog. If you have a small dog, he can perch out front on a sit-on-top kayak. Larger dogs should probably stay closer, at your feet. Start by practicing getting in and out of the kayak on land and then in shallow water. Once your dog gets comfortable, try to stick to inlets and rivers that have a slower current.

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

Show me a dog that doesn’t like snow. That’s why a dog is the perfect partner for you when you go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. You’ll get a low-impact, full-body workout, and your dog gets to romp in the snow—with you. Here’s a helpful tip: To keep the snow from building up between Fido’s toe pads, pick up some dog booties (we like these from PUPWE).

Stair running

Stair running, or even just stair climbing, is a great way to work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. And, your canine companion will benefit, too, by running off all that extra energy and getting a full-body workout. No equipment needed except a set of stairs or bleachers.

So, get your dog leashed up and get going. Shake off the drudgery of your daily grind, long hours, difficult patients, a hard day of hospital rounds, or time-consuming EHR documentation.There’s no better way to motivate yourself to get active than doing it with a partner who is always motivated—just to be with you, to run around, and to get outside!

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