Healthy Living: Do Active Pets Lead to Active Owners?

Thanks to Exact Sciences' team members Lorie Madsen, Alison Perry and Stacy Tuegel for contributing this post.

Do active dogs activate their owners? My co-worker Alison Perry and I think so. Alison has a German Shepherd named Rocco, and I have two Border Collies named Sparkle and Magic. Both breeds are very energetic.

Alison’s Story

Alison has been a runner since 7th grade, but after four marathons and a handful of half marathons, her knees started giving her some problems. She took some time off and did other low impact activities, but she really missed running. Last September, Alison and her boyfriend Mike adopted 3- year-old Rocco, and Alison got back into running again.

Alison is able to secure Rocco’s leash around her waist so she can run hands-free. Rocco was trained to stay on the left side, so he always keeps a nice pace alongside her. Alison says, “Having Rocco keep me company on my runs has been a great opportunity for us to work together and keep me motivated. The longer I can run, the longer Rocco gets to run. It is a win-win for both of us.”



Lorie’s Story

My story is a little different.  My husband is the big runner in the family and when we added a puppy to our family in 2011, he insisted it be a Border Collie, as that was the only breed he thought could keep up with him on his long runs. We soon learned that Sparkle’s favorite activity wasn’t running, but Frisbee! 

We needed a way to incorporate her love of Frisbee with our active lifestyle and adding a Burley bicycle tail wagon to the back of my husband’s bike was the answer. We taught Sparkle how to ride nicely inside so we could ride to the dog park, play Frisbee until Sparkle is good and tired, and then bicycle back home.

Last fall we even made a music video featuring one of our bike rides and Sparkle showing off her skills with a Frisbee, you can check it out on YouTube.

Stacy's Story


As the happy owner of two cats I have observed health benefits of my own.  My pets keep my healthy by helping me stay happy. The first time I moved across the country, my cat Malakite was there for me and helped me to deal with the loneliness and stress of making a new life for myself.

With my two cats there aren’t a lot of walks or some of the physical activity typically associated with dogs. However, my cats love to be chased and often chase me around the house, great exercise for all three of us.

Alison, Lorie and Stacy have picked up on something that cancer researchers have been looking into recently, the link between health, physical activity and, in some cases, pets.

Two recent studies show that being active is good for your health in general but it could also be valuable in the fight against colon cancer.  In an article and video update for the web site Medscape, Dr. John Marshall of Georgetown University explores the link between exercise, physical activity, body mass index, and colorectal cancer, and shares why he often “prescribes” a dog to patients.

Physical activity doesn’t just play a role in colon cancer prevention but also in helping people who are fighting the disease.  Research by the American Cancer Society released in January shows that physical fitness and exercise are also helpful for people who are battling colon cancer. The research shows that people who were physically active have a better chance of surviving colon cancer than those who aren’t active.

If you are looking for ways to incorporate your pet into your workout routine, there are some new options available out there. Women’s Health magazine recently had a feature on exercise classes that are popping up around the country that allow people to work out with their pets. Several of the classes expand on the popular boot camp fitness trend and incorporate dogs into the exercises.  Other classes allow you to practice yoga with your dog and some encourage owners and their dogs to cross train to add a little variety to the usual walks and runs. Does having a pet help you stay active? Share your stories with us below in the comments section.

Topics: Healthy Living

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