8 Ways to Get Fit While Hanging Out With Animals
Working out isn’t always fun. You know you have to do it, but the sweating and the sore muscles aren’t always appealing. Luckily, there are ways to get your sweat on and actually enjoy yourself, especially if that workout allows you to hang with your favorite four-legged pet. If your love of fitness rivals your love of animals, check out these ways to integrate your two passions for a healthier and happier lifestyle.
1. Goat yoga
Goats are frickin’ adorable, that we knew already. But they’ve probably never been more adorable than when they’re acting as therapy animals in the hot new exercise trend sweeping the nation that combines goats and yoga. Lainey Morse, who created the Goat Yoga concept on her farm in western Oregon, has people clamoring to get into her classes, which are starting to expand across the country.
These classes progress as you might expect — humans move through yoga positions while the goats do whatever the heck they want, like jump on your back while you’re in child’s pose. Morse says the classes are helping people with anxiety and depression, but there are other mental and physical health benefits associated with this type of animal-assisted therapy, such as: reducing loneliness, lowering blood pressure, and diminishing overall pain.
2. Horseback riding
If your fitness goals include abs of steel, hop on a horse. Riding equines requires a decent amount of core strength to stay balanced, and continued riding can improve posture in day-to-day activities. You’ll develop better coordination, enhance muscle tone and flexibility (your inner thighs and pelvis get the biggest workout on a horse), and you’ll also enjoy the meditative effects that come with focusing on the ride and staying on the horse. Giddy-up!
3. Tending to horses
If riding horses isn’t your thing, then tending to horses can satisfy your urge to interact with the animals while staying fit. London-based Pilates educator Julie Driver — who uses the exercise system to enhance riders’ skills — says that there are plenty of other ways to tone up in the company of mares and stallions.
Alongside the benefits of riding itself, Driver suggests these other activities to break a sweat.
Mucking out soiled bedding in the stables
You’ll feel the burn in your biceps and forearms after wielding that pitchfork for a period of time.
Carrying straw bales
The average straw bale weighs between 35 and 55 pounds, so replacing the soiled straw that you removed while mucking out the stall will have you burning calories and using your upper body as you move the bales around.
Grooming your horse
Drive suggests using long sweeping strokes to really clean your horse and move your shoulders.
Filling and carrying water buckets
Bend your knees and pick up those buckets. Preferably one in each hand to make sure you’re balanced.
“All these chores involve an increase in heart rate and aerobic activity with the added benefit of being in the fresh air and outside of a gym environment,” adds Driver. They can all be done as an alternative to the gym, and you could even time yourself!”
4. Dog walking
If you want to keep things moving but not overexert yourself, dog walking may be the gig for you. It’s easier than ever to pick up this side hustle that allows you to trot somebody else’s pup around the neighborhood while getting paid for it. I offer my services on Rover.com (probably the most popular peer-to-peer pet service out there), which is primarily a dog-sitting service, but there is a walking component to it.
5. Dog agility training
Plenty of dog moms and dads send their pups away to be professionally trained, but now there are programs available, like Thank Dog! Bootcamp, that offers integrated human and canine personal fitness so you and your pooch can get physically and mentally fit together. This particular program is only available in Tennessee and Ohio at the moment, but you may be able to find something similar in your area with a quick online search. (See also: 7 Ways to Get Fit With Your Dog)
6. Cat hiking
Mallory Crusta is the owner of Wildernesscat Natural Pet Care, a site dedicated to “providing natural health solutions for adventurous cats.” She’s also a supporter of “adventure cats,” a social media-fueled phenomenon that has cats stepping outside of the home and exploring the great outdoors. While kayaking, sailing, camping, and even skiing with cats are all activities growing in popularity, hiking is one with real potential for improving your fitness.
“Of course, it’s crucial that your cat is comfortable with a leash and harness long before you start exploring the local state park,” Crusta adds. “Take a few test walks, first through your house, then in the backyard, to gradually acclimate your cat to the experience. It’s also critical that your hiking cat is trained to come when called. Treats are often the key to training: use them to teach your cat to follow you.”
7. Weightlifting for livestock
I have friends who raise chickens on their property and they can attest to the strength-training they receive by hauling around feed bags and maintaining the coops. “The Critter Lady” Kelly Meister-Yetter also told me about her three flightless domestic ducks living in her backyard, and just about every facet of their care involves weightlifting.
“Their bags of feed weigh 50 lbs, and the bales of straw I use in their pen weigh over 20 lbs — all of which must be moved from the back of my car to the shed in the backyard,” she says.
Novice and veteran ornithologists (and just regular Joes who like watching birds) will reap the benefits of birding through improved cardiovascular health. Bird watchers sometimes walk many miles in search of their flighty subjects. You’ll gain increased upper arm strength by holding binoculars and cameras for an extended period, and quick reflexes.