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Furry logic: exercising with pets

I am a freelance journalist dedicated to travelling and keeping fit and healthy. A tragic (but proud) cat lady, I believe in the importance of staying strong, active and healthy in the most practical ways possible. I’m also committed to laughing every day, even if that means at myself…which is usually the case. Robyn Box

Family pets are great, aren't they? Not only do they love us and occasionally make us laugh, turns out they're also a fabulous excuse for us to keep fit.

Research by the Medical Journal of Australia claims owning a dog lowers stress and depression levels. Further research suggests those who own a furry friend actually use the health system less than those who don't.

Granted, these findings probably didn't take in my need to see a counsellor when the dog chewed up my new hand bag or when the cat left the remains of a rat under my bed, but in general terms, owning a pet is good for our mental health. And if we get smart about it, they can help us keep fit, too.

Lots of dog owners see walking their pooch as some kind of chore. Instead, try to think of Fido as the catalyst to getting your basic 30 minutes a day. And cat owners can do the same.

Try these little tips and tricks to help get fit with your pet:

Fetch: the classic exercise program for dogs is that you throw, they run and you stand still. Well not anymore! Find a park - a footy or school oval is perfect - and stand in the middle. When you throw the ball and he bolts after it, you're going to bolt in another direction. When he gets the ball and starts on his way back, so do you - eventually meeting him at the starting point. If your dog is thrown off by you running at him then stop once he fetches and let him run the extra distance to you. Not keen on running? Then lunge or squat instead, and feel the burn!

Tag: this will only work with some bigger, smarter dogs, but tag is a really great way to get a mini cardio workout into the day and an opportunity to bond with your pet. Dogs love be chased as much as they like to chase, so once Woofa is all razzed up, run in the other direction. He'll chase you. After a few moments turn around and motion to chase him. He will most likely start running, and now it's your turn to catch him. Tag, you're it! Do this until one of you collapses from laughter and you will have got in a good 10-15 minutes of cardio in and a stronger bond with your furry family member.

Laser sit ups: for cat owners out there it might be surprising to know that although cats will sleep a majority of the day (usually on your pillow without you knowing), they should also be getting some exercise in, just like us. A sure-fire way into your cat’s heart is through a laser light - I'm yet to meet a cat that isn't dedicated to catching it. Grab a laser light (or if you don't have one a very small torch) and lay on the floor. Each time you do a sit up you're going to flash the laser/light on the wall for 2-3 seconds. Your cat will jump and chase the light and you'll hold your crunch that little longer for a better result. Win/win!

Not only are they good for our mental health, now our pets are also the perfect excuse for us to get our physical health up to scratch. And if those benefits aren't a good enough reason, then surely their love of your company is.

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