Play – The Forgotten Exercise

Sometimes we make the most simplistic things wildly over-complicated. In our world of extravagant gyms, an abundance of at-home workout problems, and free media available with a few clicks, we are excessively out of shape and unhealthy. How can it be that we have more resources available to us than ever before yet, as whole, we struggle to stay in peak shape?

Not only are we in a health-crisis, we are dragging our dogs along with us. Trends in pet obesity, cancer, and other metabolic dysfunction continue to rise alongside us humans. In a time as advanced as 2019, how is it that we have lessened the ability to allow our bodies to function in the original, simple manner that it was designed to?

The reasons why we face the issue of obesity, disease, and metabolic dysfunction is beyond extensive. Answers range greatly. One such answer is multi-million/billion dollar companies creating modern-day luxuries that discourage you from using hardly any energy. Simultaneously, companies are concocting foods that are addictive, calorically dense, and designed to leave you wanting more. In short, the only biological factors that we are taking advantage of are our desires to apprehend  the highest amount of calories with minimal effort, a strategy that was quite useful many years ago, but has backfired on us today.


The question of how to solve our modern-day dilemma is not as complex as one would assume. We do have the tendency to make it a difficult answer. We torture ourselves with intense workouts that we do not enjoy, the whole time placing our mental focus on each set and each rep. We fight through workouts with the mindset that pain is gain and punish ourselves for eating that second bowl of ice cream.

If we look backwards rather than trying to find a progressive, modern solution to our problem, we will see that moving optimally for personal health can actually be quite simple and a great joy. You don’t even have to look back tens of thousands of years to the time before the Agricultural Revolution, you can simply look back to your childhood.

When you were a kid, exercise outside of physical education class (and even in physical education class if you are old enough) meant playing. When we play, our focus is on the competition and the enjoyment. When playing tag, you did not care how many steps you were taking, nor were you not counting the number of sprints or time spent resting. You ran and ran, chasing other people or running away from them. When time allowed, you would find a safe place to stop and catch your breath.


When you did stop, your heart was probably beating out of your chest, but you did not panic or dread getting back into the game. You watched for “danger” and took off when someone was nearby. You did not have to psyche yourself out or blast Metallica to get moving.

This is how simple exercise can be. When you enjoy what you are doing and perform in a fun atmosphere, exercise is easy. Best of all, in most cases you will get greater results than if you were trying to get a formal workout in. Think about it, if you had the choice between playing tag for ten minutes with people you like or running 15 sprints on and off for 10 minutes, which would be more enjoyable? Which would leave you feeling great?


In addition to observing children as a study of the effectiveness of play for exercise, we can turn to our canine companions. When we think of exercising dogs, two things usually pop into mind. The first is taking the dog for a walk. While this is something that you should regularly process, it is usually more of a relationship building tool. If your dog is tired after a quick fifteen minute walk, he is probably not in the best shape. In order for walks to be effective as exercise, they need to be for an extended period of time, which can be difficult to maintain.

The other thing that comes to mind is playing with your dog. This takes form in many different ways, but can include playing hide and seek, chasing/playing with other dogs, and the number one fan-favorite, fetch. These “exercises” require only a brief 10-15 minute session to leave your dog panting with tongue drooping out of mouth.  Do this a few times a day and your dog will have all the exercise he needs!

Need a way to track your dogs fitness activity levels to make sure you are playing enough? Check out our review of the Fitbark2!

Dogs inherently remind us to go keep things simple and go back to nature. Our wonderful blessing of big, developed brains is sometimes one of our greatest curses. Dogs keep us in check and prove that sometimes the most effective techniques come from ditching our human brains. By following our dogs lead we can begin to play for exercise and get greater workouts in than we have had in years!


Best of all, it is more time spent with your canine companion. Why go to the gym and muddle away on the treadmill for a boring hour when you can enjoy fun, laughter, and excitement while playing with your dog. Think back to the reason why you got your dog in the first place. Odds are going for walks, companionship, and motivation for exercise are at the top of that list. Get back to that mindset and start playing with your dog!

When you do play with your dog, the key is to go all out. Don’t play with your dog in the last 15 minutes before work when you don’t want to get your clothes dirty or get slobber on your hands. Commit time when you can get sweaty, roll in the grass, and when you have some time to cool down, it’s going to be exhausting!

Some people are afraid to let loose and have fun with their dogs. They believe that training should be strict and formal, to which we say phooey! Let loose and have fun! Happiness, enjoyment, and fun are so often replaced in workouts in favor of pain, sweat, and tears. Enjoying your workout through play will leave you wanting more and encourage you to come back the next day. The debate of whether you should go to the gym or stay in bed will no longer take place.


Not only will your own personal joy provide motivation, seeing the joy and satisfaction in your dog’s body language will make play as exercise beyond worth it. You will strengthen your bond and develop a sense of accountability with one another. There is a ton of evidence supporting the effects of working out in a social setting. We, as humans, are social animals. Dogs are the same way, and that is why we have grown together over the last 10 millennia.

Want to learn more about the impact of exercising with your dog? Read: Team Up with Your Dog to Achieve Ultimate Health.

It is time to stop the trends in obesity and poor health and to get ourselves back to the way nature designed us. Who better to take on this journey with than our beloved companions that have been there all along? Grab your pooch, get outside, and get playing!

What fun do you have with your dog that leaves you feeling well exercised? We want to know! Leave a comment below!

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