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The Activity Activist Series of Articles
A Dog’s Life Needs Balance
Many people fling tennis balls at their dogs. What if the “shoe was on the other
By Sifu Slim, author of “Sedentary Nation”
Immanuel Kant related how “we can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of
animals.” What about flipping that picture around?
Dog walkers know they are obliged to walk their dogs. But any dog senses that the
“masters” need those walks just as much. Can you imagine if a dog had the ability to
step on the pedal of a gizmo that could launch a tennis ball?
A dog with a typical canine personality would press the pedal, get excited
about the launch, and race us in pursuit of the ball—and get there first. But if the
dog was avitared to take on the personality of an inactive dog walker, the dog could
stand around and watch his guardian run and fetch for 20 minutes. The new, less
active dog would potentially face weight gain, stress, and cardiovascular problems.
If the dog lapped a bowl filled with a 12 oz. sugarized coffee with whipped cream,
the outcome would be even worse. After all, those drinks are not healthful for dogs,
but of course they’re fine for us, sometimes more than once per day.
The human fetcher would see some changes too. An unfit dog owner would
either have a heart attack on day one—a fetcher on a stretcher. Or, more likely, the
fetcher would become a fitter person over time, depending on other things like food
intake and mindset. The sedentary pooch would grow a paunch.
When I hear from unfit people, many will say, “I’ve got to lose some weight.”
Next comes how many pounds, followed what weight they need to get to.
Such a mindset is missing the bigger picture. Wellness is about balance. To
balance your week, do some physical activity every day. There is good in activity,
whether it relates to brain, body, or jobsite. Even sales reps are told: “It’s not about
your sales skills.” Because some buyers are ready while others are simply not, the
closing ratio numbers are often the same no matter how good a salesperson one is.
The sales coaches look at the reps’ daily and monthly activity. Let’s look at your pet-
raising wellness numbers…
How many outdoor appointments have you kept with your dog this week?
Have you been too busy to keep up your end of the long-walk bargain? We
are a busy modern world exposed to so much information. As consumers, we are
taught to take in that information and use it for our purchasing decisions. The
outcome can mean even more busyness, stress, and health setbacks. What does the
Answer: Whatever we give them, as well as whatever we expose them to.
House pets may listen to as much TV as we do and are just as addiction-prone to the
food-science formula of fat, salt, and sugar. Only they don’t actually swipe their paw
in line at the supermarket checkout. They take what we give them and most of it
comes from factory farms. Pooch gets paunch. And pooch suffers ailments that no
wolf ever suffered because wolves, and other canines too, ate real food, not bagged
and processed substitutes. They didn’t just eat organic, they ate what they were
designed to eat: other wildlife, including berries, grasshoppers, birds, and fish.
While writing Sedentary Nation, a book about physical movement and the
journey from hunter-gatherers to couch potatoes, I tried to tie in an animal’s life to
Here’s an excerpt.
Today’s domesticated animals have a lot of time on their hands. Those unable
to roam have so little to do. As they wait for our next inspiration to provide their
bale of hay, many of our domesticated, non-roaming animals just have to deal with
us. Those we eat tend to be treated poorly; those we own as pets and see every day
generally get treated better. Cats and dogs, and other house pets that live with us,
wind up in our direct visual path. We tend to treat them better than those in the
back pen. Think of a dog that is penned in a dog run far out back. He’s left more on
his own than the housedog.
How do the lives of wolves in the wild compare to wolves in a zoo? Would
you imagine them happier hunting for their food and roaming nature’s hilltops, or
sitting around in a concrete zoo, eating mostly the same man-made or man-issued
slop, pooping in the same corner of their cells for 15 years?
It’s not uncommon to see horses that lack in care, proper food, and exercise.
The animal rescue squads are regularly sent to places where horses were basically
forgotten. Consider that a bale of hay can cost more than $10 and a veterinarian visit
$300 or so. Certainly in most parts of the West, we are not raising horses for food.
Horses didn’t vote for their right to be fed once or twice a day and kept in small
confines with nothing to do all day except swat flies.
Horses thrive with physical activity. Active equestrians ride their horses,
walk them, train them, and brush them. So if they are properly cared for, a pen
might not be so detrimental to a horse’s wellbeing. But horses of course are grazing
animals. Allowing them to graze requires a lot of field space. Their grazing
techniques uproot grasses causing small, confined spaces to turn to dirt in short
order. To do things properly, a horse needs a huge space to roam. In this way, the
horse gets exercise and the grasses get time to replenish.
Our nation and, for that matter, most western industrialized countries, are
populated with too many people that are overweight or obese and in poor physical
shape. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, an astounding 34 percent of
adult Americans are considered overweight, up from 23 percent a decade ago. Fully
17 percent are “obese”. The medical definition of obese is someone who is more
than 20 percent over their ideal weight.
Perhaps most disturbingly, the next generation is following in our rather
heavy footsteps—one in three American children is overweight, and two in ten are
obese. These statistics are from 2007 and 2008 and represent the highest such
levels ever seen. The good news (if you can call it that) is that these numbers seem
to have at least leveled off.
Yet we continue to fill our lives with modern conveniences such as flat panel
televisions, laptops, ‘smart’ phones and other devices that keep us from being
physically active and engaged in the world around us. In a real sense, we’re
shielding ourselves from participating in the activities our bodies were designed
for—walking, running, lifting, digging and other forms of physical exertion.
Most of us may not be aware of it, but a lack of fitness carries with it a higher
risk of mortality than obesity itself. Research has shown that low levels of
cardiorespiratory fitness have been identified as a leading factor for death from
cardiovascular disease. The greater the degree of cardiorespiratory fitness, the
better our bodies can function. This is measured by improved blood lipid level (less
fat in the blood), decreased blood pressure, and a better ability to process glucose
that minimizes prospects for developing diabetes.
In simple terms this means that keeping fit, in addition to keeping the weight
off, gives us a better chance of living longer and healthier lives.
The above excerpt is something worth considering as we walk down the
street of decision-making. Don’t you think it wise to ponder before giving money to
a stranger, or an individual “person” as corporations are legally known?
A study of human behavior in the modern era can’t help but reveal the
unethical treatment of animals. Who else can we blame but ourselves? Animals
aren’t generally long-term torturers of other animals. In reference to industrial
farming, most of us have heard about how our food-producing creatures are penned
and pumped with antibiotics, or have their beaks clipped or necks tethered or
cuffed. Taking a needed break from my writing one day, I thought of the care-
capacity of humans and the responsibility some consider a deity bestowed upon
mankind so we might have “dominion” over the animal kingdom. Doesn’t dominion
come with a responsibility of stewardship?
One hypothesis this unearthed is of a psychological nature. If a human does
not care for himself, is he less likely to care for his animals? I’m not so sure about
that. There are plenty of unfit, and poor-eating owners who do treat their personal
animals well. Now, another hypothesis. Does an unhealthful regard for what puts in
one’s body—i.e. junk food and factory-farmed food—equate to a disregard for how
animals are treated?
If you stop to take a look at how you are living, and don’t amend any of the
negative behavior, that certainly fits within Einstein’s theory of insanity—doing the
same thing and expecting different results. What results do you look for in the
coming year? You know we raise our meat animals to grow fatter on a highly
accelerated feeding model that includes chemical injections. You are aware that our
roasters—chickens bred for their meat—can’t even walk due to obesity.
Will your habits promote the horrific lifestyle forced upon our food animals?
Or are you ready to swipe your card with enough care to improve the life of animals
so we won’t perpetuate the fall of the modern era? Can you even afford the better
options? I’ll let you ruminate on that while waiting in line at the drive-thru, or as you
opt to instead pass it by.
Sifu Slim is the author of Sedentary Nation and The Aging Athlete and owner of Sifu
Slim Wellness. Information about his training programs, books and instructional
DVDs are at MaintenanceWorkout.com