At 45, Karen could never have imagined herself alone, divorced and depressed.

“At least I’ve got you.” She said, Sam’s tail thumping at her touch. “How about you, me, a big bowl of ice cream and a movie marathon?” she continued, holding his head in her hands.

Like many people, Karen failed to recognize she was sharing her own health problems with her best friend. Just like Karen, Sam’s obesity would eventually expose him to diabetes, arthritis and a shorter life.

Not only had emotions gone up and down the leash, but so had health problems.

Getting fit

Today, you will find Karen and Sam exercising together. Karen has now lost 37 pounds, and Sam is 2 pounds lighter. Their perspective on life has also improved. “Not only is it a great workout, but its fun, we both have met new friends. If it wasn’t for Sam, I would still be eating ice cream and feeling sorry for myself.  We’re doing something good for both of us.”

“Science shows that not only do pets make us feel better, but also there are specific human health benefits that flow from human-dog interactions.”

Karen is not alone, according to Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and also a USA Triathlon certified coach. “Pets and people will suffer the same fate in becoming obese when parallel scenarios of too many calories and not enough exercise are present. But organizations like K9 Fit Club are recognizing that our pets can be the motivating workout partners that inspire a parallel path toward better health. Everyone benefits.”

According to Harvard Health, only 2.5 hours of exercise is needed to reach the minimum weekly requirement. Research has shown people with dogs get 34 percent more than the average recommended exercise.

A great reason to own a dog

But it gets better—science shows that not only do pets make us feel better, but also there are specific human health benefits that flow from human-dog interactions.

“When fingers meet fur, your brain responds, and there is no better motivator than a cold nose and a wagging tail,” said Steven Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation. “Research shows that your cardiovascular health improves and you are less prone to depression when you exercise with your dog.”

Recent statistics from the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention show dog obesity rising at an epidemic proportion, with 46 million (or 55 percent of dogs) overweight or obese. The Center for Disease Control numbers weigh in with more than one-third of U.S. adults (34.9 percent) tipping the scale, equating to 78 million people fighting obesity.

Simply put, obesity is the number one most preventable medical condition seen in both humans and dogs. Help close the ‘fat gap’ in both dog and owner; exercise with your dog and include them in your workouts. You will never find a better workout partner or a better way to improve you health.