How Can Jogging with Your Dog Help You Combat Anxiety?
Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the U.S., making it one of the most common mental conditions in the nation. Anxiety occurs when people face intense fear or have several physical and psychological responses that interfere with their daily life. If you have a dog, then know that you are already doing a great thing for yourself, since study after study has shown that pets lower stress levels. You can boost this benefit further by going for a jog with Fido, provided your vet says it is ok. Jogging isn’t right for all dogs; they should be healthy, energetic, and young enough for intense exercise, as older dogs can have joint or heart issues. If you let your dog run off-leash, make sure they're wearing a Fitbark GPS tracker so you always know where they are.
A study by researchers at Brigham Young University has shown that running mitigates the negative effects that chronic anxiety has on the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Another study by University of Colorado researchers found that even when animals (in this case, lab mice) are ‘forced’ to exercise, they show significant drops in anxiety and depression. The findings indicate that dogs that are anxious or high-energy can benefit greatly from exercise. Regular jogs with your dog will also help keep them lean, trim, and heart-healthy. It's also a good way to expend your dog's energy, which builds up over the course of the day and needs to be put to good use for optimal sleep.
Take It Slowly
If your dog is not accustomed to jogging, it is important to start with a brisk walk. As the days go by and you notice your dog isn’t panting heavily or looking tired, try jogging for a few seconds, going back to a fast walking pace intermittently. Slowly increase the amount of time you spend running until your dog is ready for a longer jog. A University of Missouri-Columbia study shows that high-intensity exercise is the best way to reduce anxiety. Therefore, you may find that you are more exhausted immediately after your workout yet more relaxed in the long-term, once you have picked up the pace. To free up your hands, you might consider using a hands-free leash. These fit around your waist, leaving your hands free while you are running.
What to Take
Make sure you bring enough water for yourself and your dog when you are running. If you have anxiety, then you should definitely aim to jog in a natural area. Studies have shown that just 10 minutes spent in natural areas can significantly lower stress levels and your dog will also love sniffing the grass, playing fetch, and rolling in leaves while on a break. Because you may spend time at the park, make sure your dog is well hydrated. As the warmer months approach, plan your jog strategically, avoiding peak hours of sun so your dog’s paws and skin don’t suffer.
If you have anxiety and you are looking for natural ways to reduce it, jogging is a great activity to choose, since it is considered a high-impact sport. If your dog is healthy and energetic, he will make a good running companion, but ensure you pick up the pace slowly but surely so he doesn’t get over-tired. To boost the calming effects of exercise, take it outdoors and try to spend at least 10 minutes in a park, forest, or seaside area so you can enjoy the present moment, watching your dog at play.