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Health and Medicine

Take your pooch to boot camp and you can both get healthier
Workouts with canines help keep their human counterparts on track

Workout partners of the four-foot kind help keep their humans on track.
Courtesy of Anne Glausser
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The health effects of being overweight can be serious and include diabetes and heart disease. But motivating yourself to go to the gym or put on that workout tape can be tough.

For Ohio Public Radio, WCPN's Anne Glausser brings us the story of one Ohio woman who thinks she’s found a way to help people stick to their workout plan. And it involves a furry companion.

GLAUSSER: Working out with extra incentives

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Heidi Braun she runs a bootcamp to get people in shape. But people aren’t the only participants.

Maggie, Braun’s peppy 3-year-old border collie mix, is a regular participant. She adopted Maggie a year ago from the Mahoning County Dog Shelter, and the dog is the reason Braun started what’s called Thank Dog! Bootcamp.

It’s a fitness class for people and their pooches.

"I figured I couldn’t be the only person who had a crazy dog that I was leaving to go to the gym at night." Braun says.

During bad weather, the participants and their pooches gather at the Beachwood Community Center, but in the summer, they meet outside.

People come to the classes to bond with their dogs and get fit.

The ultimate trainer
"I have ladies in some of my classes who have lost 40 pounds," Braun says. "I have other ones who are here to work on strength-training."

The beauty of the concept, says Braun, is your dog becomes your workout partner, your motivator to lace up.

"If your dog knows that every night at 6:30 you go for a walk, or every Thursday you go to bootcamp together, (he or she) knows when that day is. They’re excited and they’re waiting for you and they’re going to pester you until you put on your shoes and take them. ...  Maggie spins in circles because she knows it’s bootcamp day."

When she had to miss class, one reglar sent her boyfriend because she didn’t want her dog to miss out.

"If you’re a single person and your dog is your best buddy that you share your life with, you don’t want to let them down."

Keeping up
Linda Augustus of Pepper Pike and her dog, Sadie, started last summer. "We always ache after this class," she says. 

Braun says she gets people, and dogs, at all fitness levels and ages.

Ileen Kelner of Beachwood jokes that she’s twice as old as the others so it’s harder to keep up with her beagle, Amos.

Braun shouts out commands.

The dogs have to practice going from a jog to a sit. As for their human counterparts:
"Get on your mat on all fours," instructs Braun. "You’re doing rear leg lifts.

The dogs are pretty good at staying put during this, but Augustus' dog, Sadie, can’t resist a little sweaty-face licking.

"I’m happy to see you, too," Augustus responds, before acknowledging, "Oh dear, we’ve lost control of the situation."

Keeping up the commitment
Ohio State University health coach Jenny Pitcher says a pet can be a good tool for fitness and weight loss, whether in a bootcamp like Braun’s or just taking a spin around the block at night.

Her clients say their dogs keep them honest, and research shows that having a buddy of some sort does help people stay on track.

"You can talk yourself out of going and doing the exercise," Pitcher says. "But if you have committed to someone else to do it, it makes you more likely to get that done."

Listener Comments:

Plus it's good exercise for our pooches too, as there are too many dogs that are obese, and their little hearts can't take it.
I think this is a great idea. I wish someone would start this in my town, as this is a "dog"-friendly town for sure.

Posted by: Renee (Montana) on April 2, 2013 1:04AM
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