Dog Longevity Survey: How Important Is Exercise for Longevity?

58.54% of survey participants believe that exercise is extremely important and 41.46% checked that it is important for longevity.

I was happy to see that.

What do you think? How important is exercise to your dog's longevity?

If you asked your dog whether they wanted to go get some exercise, what do you think they would answer? What does exercise even mean? Generally something unpleasant and painful, right?

The official definition of exercise is that it is an activity requiring physical effort, carried out primarily to sustain or improve health and fitness. Blah, sound pretty bad, doesn't it?

Fortunately, dogs love things that require physical effort. For them, that's what fun is about.

Physical activity might be a better term.

Dogs are physical creatures; ask Cookie. They love to run, jump, chase, dig and wrestle. They love walking and exploring places. It makes them happy.

Happiness is an essential ingredient in the longevity recipe.

If you don't think so, consider what are the opposites of happiness - stress and/or depression. Such things not only make life miserable but also shorter. There are conclusive physiological impacts from stress which have been linked to the development of disease.

Physical activity is important for the brain.

The original reason a brain developed at all was to coordinate movement. So the organism could chase their food, rather than wait for it to fall into their mouth. With any physical activity, particularly outdoors, there is an enormous amount of information flowing back and forth and being processed by the brain. Not just the body, but also the brain get exercised.

Shying away from activity is a slippery slope. For the body and the brain.

I remember when granny's health started going downhill. She had her share of medical issues but always had enough drive to do things. Until my brother and I moved on to our own lives and there was nobody and nothing else to take care of, nothing to motivate her to push through.

She wasn't feeling great and without motivation just stopped doing things. Stopped going out because sometimes she felt dizzy. Then she got worse and stopped doing much in the house too. Every time she stopped doing something, she got worse and stopped doing something else. Until she just sat in an armchair all day. Shortly after she lost her lucidity too.

I am convinced things would have played out differently if she kept herself active.

Physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, healthy muscles and joints.

I already talked about the crucial role healthy [under]weight plays in longevity. When it comes to muscles, you lose what you don't use. Because maintaining muscle mass takes quite a bit of energy, the body is not going to put in the resources if the muscles are not being used. An unchallenged muscle will shrink to next to nothing. That is bad not only for when the dog might want to use it at some point, because it will be weak and easily injured, but also puts undue strain on joints.

As for joint themselves, like an old engine that hasn't run for a long time, they will have difficulty to move. Movement helps to keep them lubricated and mobile.

Physical activity stimulates the immune system.

The immune system is the guard against disease. It fights off infections and other pathogens, but it also helps remove dead cells and destroy cells that are not developing properly - cancer cells. Exercise, as well as the resulting heat, boosts immune function.

Physical activity benefits the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes crucial for body maintenance and removal of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The circulation is promoted by external massage, muscle expansion and contraction, and exercise. No movement, no flow.

Physical activity benefits the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Physical activity keeps the heart fit. While the heart pumps all the time, exercise or rest, exercise challenges it and enables it to better respond to stress. The heart becomes thicker and stronger. To deal with the increased blood flow during activity, blood vessels dilate, which makes them more adaptive as well. The body creates more red blood cells to keep sufficient oxygen to muscles.

The lungs adapt by increasing their capacity.

Physical activity benefits the digestive system.

Movement facilitates gut motility. When Jasmine was under exercise restrictions, whether after surgeries, or recovering from an injury, she always had a hard time with elimination. Her motility was already slower than normal because of her IBD and lack of physical activity made it even worse.

Cookie too is most regular when she can be normally active.

Exercise helps keep things moving through as well as increased blood circulation supports the digestive tract function and nutrient absorption.

Am I forgetting something?

Whether I have forgotten some points or not, I think the importance of physical activity for longevity should be quite clear. That, as well as it adds to the motivation for living in the first place.

Related articles:
Dog Longevity Survey Part I
Dog Longevity Survey Part II
Dog Longevity Survey Part I Results
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The Cancer Antidote that Lies Within


  1. The benefits of exercise/physical activity for our pets have so much more to do with maintaining or loosing weight. Just like in humans, activity does wonders for the mind and overall well being. Wonderful post.

  2. My work schedule changed recently which has given me more time at home AND more time for longer walks with Ruby. Her energy, health and confidence have improved so much by lengthening our walks.

    1. I'm glad to hear. A living example of how great activity is for them.

  3. Even though I don't own a dog, I know how important exercise is for them. There's a dog park near my house and I always enjoy seeing how many dog owners in my neighborhood take advantage of it.

    1. It's good to see people taking their dogs out. Where we used to live, almost every house had a dog and you'd only see two or three of them to get out beyond their tiny yards.

  4. Great post! I so agree! Even with senior dogs, a round of play, puzzle games, walks - all are so healthy - plus the added bonus of bonding and spending special time with our beloved pups!

    1. Senior dogs need regular, however mild, exercise more than ever.

  5. Everything I read suggests that physical activity is really important both for people and pets.

  6. When I inherited my mom's cockers they were very overweight and never got any exercise. After I owned them for a month and took them on 3 - 4 walks a day, with one of them being over a mile, they both lost 5 pounds. I agree that walking provides mental and social stimulation also.

  7. Agree. Exercise is very important for longevity and quality of life. Same for humans too.

    1. Absolutely. But when humans don't get enough exercise it's their own fault. Dogs depend on us to provide them with what they need; they can do it for themselves.

  8. Fantastic info. I try to make sure Lulu and Jasmine get out daily. But I maybe don't get them out as much as I should. Mental activity is also important to a dog's longevity, I think.

    1. Yes, mental stimulation is important too. The beauty of this is that being outside and physically active provides plenty of mental stimulation as well.

  9. I think its like people. They and we need exercise to function properly and live longer and healthier lives. People often buy a dog for company AND for the opportunity to go for walks!


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