Exercise is essential for just about any animal, and tortoises are definitely no exception! Tortoises that regularly exercise are known to have better overall health, just like in humans. While we can’t go for a run or put a tortoise on a leash, tortoises need adequate space for to walk, climb, and dig. The question is, how much of it do they need?
How much exercise do pet tortoises need? There is no specific amount of time that tortoises need to exercise. During the waking summer months, it is good to have your tortoise exercise for at least one hour a day. Encourage your tort to walk, climb, and some dig. During the colder months, the waking hours for tortoises are reduced significantly (or completely, if hibernating) so exercise will naturally be less.
Exercise for your tortoise can be especially easy if their enclosure is big enough for roaming. This will require very little effort and supervision if they are able to roam within the secure environment they already live in. As walking is their major source of activity, adequate space in a pen will allow this exercise to take place as often as they wish!
How Much Exercise a Pet Tortoise Needs
There truly is no exact amount of exercise that is needed for your pet tortoise! But it is key to note that they do need regular exercise.
What does this mean? If you can find the time to let your tortoise exercise for an hour a day, then that is ideal! If this is not possible, try to get in an hour every other day.
Take advantage of good weather and try to exercise them as much as possible. You may not be able get in any exercise if the weather is not good.
Tortoises need exercise for health benefits just as humans. Exercise in tortoises has shown:
- Decreased chance of respiratory problems
- Bone development
- A better appetite
Given these benefits, adequate exercise will ensure that the tortoise will maintain and grow in strength throughout its life. Sedentary tortoises have a greater risk of developing health problems.
Any exercise is better than none, if you find that your tortoise has not been given adequate space or time to exercise, make a conscious effort to make up for the time. Tortoises walking is the best exercise, which they may already do day to day.
Just check in on them and make sure they are able to wander within their enclosure or outside with your supervision! If you find that a tortoise is not exercising when given the opportunity for fairly decent amounts of time, check in with a veterinarian.
How To Exercise Your Pet Tortoise
As previously mentioned, exercise is very important, but how do you do it? The best exercise is one that replicates their behavior in the wild.
Exercise for tortoises is fairly limited to:
While this does not seem very exciting, your tortoise loves it! All of these activities can be completed in the tortoise’s home environment given that there is enough space. Large enclosures are best for tortoise exercise.
Related article: Do pet tortoises need toys?
Large enclosures are also very important for their overall well-being and should be constructed to accommodate their roaming needs. It is suggested that a pair of tortoises can live comfortably and with enough space in a 10ft x 20ft pen.
It all depends on the number of tortoises you have and their size. Building too big of an enclosure for a really small tortoise does not always make sense as they may be hard to keep track of!
If you are able to build a large enough enclosure with plenty of rocks to climb on and digging opportunities, you will not have to manage exercise time. Tortoises will be able to exercise and roam on their own without supervision.
Related article: How much space do tortoises need?
This is the ideal option for tortoise exercise as it replicates their behaviors in the wild. It also eliminates unnecessary handling as that can be quite stressful for tortoises
If you do not have a large enough space for the tortoises to roam, set up a temporary closed off space or at least an area that does not have any potential hazards. This may require close supervision as tortoises like to roam with no general direction in mind.
Outdoor areas are best as they mimic their natural environment. Just be careful for other animals that may try and hurt the tortoise or leaving them in the sun for too long without any shade or protection.
Your ideal exercise area should have natural elements. Grass and dirt to dig into, rocks and branches to climb on, and plants for shade. Climbing is an energy intensive activity that will give them adequate exercise in a fairly short amount of time.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Exercise For Pet Tortoises
As a general rule of thumb, outdoor exercise as well as outdoor living is more ideal for tortoises. This replicates their natural habitat and plays to their tendencies. Make sure the areas outside of their enclosure do not have fertilizers, chemicals, poisonous plants, or wild animals. All these are dangers for tortoises.
Tortoises are not used to playing in a hamster ball or roaming around a home built for humans. This should be kept in mind when exercising your pet tortoise. While indoor exercise is manageable, it does require more effort and management of your pet.
Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
- Mimics wild habitat
- Exposure to sunshine
- Less mess
In addition to the natural habitat being replicated, UV rays and cleanliness are major draws to exercising them outside. Tortoises need the sun’s natural rays to aid in digestion and overall health. Basking time is very important for their health, and giving them the opportunity to get these rays while exercising accomplishes both goals.
Related article: Do tortoises like rain (And is it safe?)
Cleanliness is also less of a factor when you are exercising the tortoise outside. For one, excrement accidents require minimal cleanup on dirt or grass. Additionally, tortoises can carry bacteria and disease such as salmonella.
This can make humans sick. If they are spending more time outside, there is less of a chance they can spread disease into spaces that humans often use.
Disadvantages of Outdoor Exercise
While outdoor activity is most beneficial, there are disadvantages to be aware of. First is weather. Tortoises do not do well in really cold or too hot of environments. If extreme weather conditions exist, it may cause overheating or allow them to get too cold. This should be avoided, making outdoor exercise unattractive in these situations.
Space may also be an issue, if you do not have sufficient outdoor space to roam, this could prevent outdoor exercise. Although, a small amount of outdoor space is preferred to indoor.
Finally, there are chances of predators anytime your tortoise is outside. Make sure you keep house pets, such as dogs and cats, away from the tortoise when it is out. Also, be aware of birds that may try and bother or hurt it.
If you keep a close eye on your tortoise, especially in a non-confined environment there should be no issues!
Benefits of Indoor Exercise
- Easily Managed in Enclosure
The main benefits include staying out of the elements such as rain or snow. Although it is important to note that indoor spaces can also be harmful temperature wise!
More on that in the disadvantages! If tortoises are kept in an indoor enclosure, they are also easier to manage and less likely to be hurt by predators (as long as the dog isn’t nearby!).
Disadvantages of Indoor Exercise
- Temperature Regulation
- Dangerous objects
- Health Hazard
Houses often are too cold and have a draft. This is not ideal for a tortoise’s well-being. If you do let a tortoise exercise in your home or indoors, make sure the ground temperature is not too cold. You must also make sure the air is not too cold. This is difficult as comfortable human temperatures are much different from a tortoise’s, especially in the summertime.
Indoor spaces also present harmful challenges, especially if there are sharp objects, other animals, or places they can hide. Indoor enclosures are also usually too small to have tortoises walk around. This is why some people let them roam around their house, a dangerous activity for the reasons mentioned.
Related article: Here’s why tortoises should NOT roam around the house
If you must be indoors, add rocks or branches for them to climb on within their enclosure. Finally, health hazards and contamination are possible to humans. Tortoises are not the cleanest pets to own with the bacteria they carry. When you let them come inside and explore, they leave germs and potential excrement around your home.
Given these factors, try to aim for consistent exercise in a suitable outdoor environment! Just like we need to get exercise often to stay healthy, think of your tortoise’s activity as well! For something fun and different, go outside and work out with your tortoise when you have to supervise. While they climb, do some push-ups or squats!
One Last (Vital) Note
No matter how your tortoises exercise, please keep an eye out on them. Check in on them every few hours during the day. Some tortoises are clumsy and tend to fall over while exploring the environment or climbing a wall. An upside-down tortoise is in BIG danger from suffocation, heat-stroke, and/or predators.
Please read this article for more on this issue: Can an upside-down tortoise turn itself over?