Column: Man has much to learn from his best friend

As many of you have experienced, the Missouri summer months are insanely hot. This forces animals and humans alike to retreat indoors for most forms of productive exercise. With the return of fall, human and animals alike are able to shed their air-conditioned paradises to hit the streets for their daily exercise needs.

I have noticed not only the increased number of outside exercisers but also the new workout companions they have chosen. More and more exercisers seem to have ditched their human exercise buddies and turned instead to their dogs for workout companionship.

Although there is no doubt living a healthy lifestyle has many variables and rules, we can often learn simple health guidelines by looking at the behavior of man's best friend.

Dogs often take a very different approach and view to healthy living than humans. This could be due to the innate knowledge of needed exercise and healthy eating that dogs possess and humans such as myself will spend years studying.

Simple exercise tips humans can learn from the canine species include exercising to make the body feel good. Contrary to the animal species, humans are inclined to exercise only because they have been told they should or need to in order to be healthy. Although this might be true, thinking in this manner takes the joy and happiness out of exercising. Instead of thinking about your next workout in a negative way, strive to take on the mindset of the last dog you saw swiftly running alongside its owner. Try to enjoy every step you get to take as if it is getting you closer to catching that Frisbee or, in a student's case, achieving your dream career.

Similarly, dogs simply stop eating when they are full. Even though the bowl of food might be placed in front of them all day, most dogs will only consume the food they need for the energy they expend that day. If that energy is unneeded, the dog will have the food for later use. This is a trait that can be hard to acquire for many people.

As stated in my past column, many humans have the tendency to consume food simply because it is there. Although the smell of the food and image it provides might be appealing, the next time you see a warm chicken pot pie ask yourself the same question the dog probably instinctively does: "Do I need that energy in my day at this point?" Hopefully, you will find yourself beginning to eat mainly for the fuel it provides you, instead of simply because it looks good.

In conjunction with this topic, I want to point out though dogs eat only when hungry, they also allow themselves to indulge from time to time. I have never met a dog that has refused a treat or bone once it has been offered. I like to think the dog takes this item even because they do not know when the treat will be offered again. In taking this item, the dog is allowing itself one simple pleasure or change from the daily diet. We humans can learn from dogs in this sense by allowing ourselves to have that one indulgence every now and then. If you prevent yourself from having any treats, you will become frustrated with your diet and might end up binge eating or consuming too many indulgence items.

Similarly, a dog's knowledge of adequate hydration is a skill worthy of learning. No matter what the exercise or strenuousness of the activity, animals always hydrate their bodies properly. After a long run, the first thing many dogs do is get a drink from their water bowl. Due to a student's busy schedule it is often easy to put drinking water to the backburner and focus instead on exercising at a maximum level. This can often lead to becoming dehydrated or faint and ultimately decrease the overall effectiveness of your exercise. Take a cue from your four-legged friend and remember to stay hydrated throughout the day and during exercise.

A dog often provides an excellent workout companion due to its excitement over exercising every day of the week. Although as college students we often provide ourselves with a "weekend free" pass directed toward exercising, animals do not know the difference between a "Thirsty Thursday" and a regular Tuesday afternoon. Having such a motivated companion for exercise should eventually rub off on you and in turn make you more excited to exercise. If not, staring back at sad puppy dog eyes waiting for a run might do the trick.

If you are not one of the lucky ones who has a dog on campus but find yourself often falling into a healthy-living slump or lacking needed motivation, you might want to consider borrowing a friend's dog. If you live off-campus, you might want to consider rescuing a lonesome exercise-starved canine companion of your very own.

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