Each year at least 1.9 million people die as a result of physical inactivity.
It’s a startling statistic. And perhaps you are thinking to yourself – that can’t be right? But the truth is that physical inactivity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers by up to 20%.
So what does this have to do with your pet’s health?
Did you know that it is estimated that 60% of dogs have some form of heart disease by the time they turn 9? Canine cardiovascular disease does not mostly have the same causes as in humans, but the course of the disease is modulated by exercise in dogs as much as in humans.
And then there is cancer …A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a significantly decreased risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers, as well as esophageal cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia. In addition, physical activity was strongly associated with a decreased risk of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, as well as cancers of the head and neck, rectum, bladder, and lung. We don’t have the same research for dogs, but it is quite likely that if regular exercise reduces the risk of cancer in us, it should have some protective effect for our dogs.
What about diabetes? Estimates of the prevalence of diabetes mellitus in dogs is up to 1 in 100. The diagnosis is often preceded or accompanied by obesity. Certain breeds appear to be at greater risk for developing canine diabetes. Regular activity increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin and help maintain normal blood glucose levels.
No discussion on exercise as medicine would be complete without discussing arthritis. Up to 70% of veterinary visits for joint problems in dogs are related to osteoarthritis. Exercise is crucial for the management of arthritis. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. Exercise can help improve health and fitness even in individuals with joints problems, provided it is done right. Most people don’t reailse that lack of exercise actually can make joints even more painful and stiff, increasing dependency on medication aa well as the risk of co-morbidities like obesity.
So how is exercise like medicine?
You need the right prescription
Just because exercise is good does not mean that all types of exercise are appropriate for your dog at the current moment. The trick with exercise therapy is that the type of exercise chosen should be appropriate for your dog’s fitness level and the physical challenges that your dog might have. An exercise professional can help you find the right type of exercises that will benefit your body without doing harm to any sensitive body structures.
2. You need an accurate diagnosis to make the right prescription
Just like a doctor needs to know what bacteria might be making a patient ill in order to prescribe the right antibiotic, an exercise professional needs to know what your dog’s specific physical challenges are in order to prescribe the most appropriate and beneficial exercises. This usually requires a thorough assessment.
3. You need the right dosage
An exercise or rehabilitation professional knows what effect different movements have on different body structures. Once your therapist knows what your body needs in terms of exercise, he or she can carefully choose which exercises you should do and how much you should start with.
4. Sometimes the dosage needs to be adjusted
You know the joke “take two Panado and call me in the morning?” There is actually a good reason for that. How your individual dog responds to any treatment, including exercise therapy, gives your therapist important information about how his/her body responds to stimuli. A rehab professional can predict this to some extent, but each individual responds slightly differently, so sometimes the prescribed exercises need to be adjusted but NOT stopped completely.
5. It only works if you follow the instructions and take it regularly
In exactly the same way that medicine only works if you take it according to the doctor’s instructions (with food, finish the course, etc, ) exercise therapy only works if you commit to making it part of your dog’s daily routine. It is also important to do the exercises correctly to achieve the desired goals.
So....have you and your dog taken your Vitamin M(ovement) today?