Fitness goes to the dogs- The Post and Courier

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Fitness goes to the dogs- The Post and Courier

Canines help humans drop some excess weight by offering motivation to take a walk

By David Quick, Monday, September 29, 2008

Forget the disappointing diets, costly health clubs and pricey personal trainers. Patti Lawson had gone that route and discovered a simpler solution.

She got a dog.

By walking with her dog, Sadie, twice a day, Lawson lost 30 pounds (and kept it off), started eating healthier and got off the roller coaster of fitness that millions of Americans ride on a daily basis.

The government lawyer who lives in the other Charleston, the one in West Virginia, chronicled her experience in a book published in 2006 titled “The Dog Diet: What My Dog Taught Me About Shedding Pounds, Licking Stress and Getting a New Leash on Life.”

It won her the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Award for humor book of the year in 2007, an appearance at the banquet prior to the Westminster Dog Show in New York that year and made her an advocate for a novel niche — getting people to exercise with their dogs — in media and in appearances throughout the country.

Lawson says people regularly talk to her or e-mail her about the book, often confessing that they don’t think to walk their dogs. But her message is getting out there. For example, Women’s World Magazine is profiling a woman who lost 60 pounds by walking her dog.

“It’s such an easy thing to do,” says Lawson, who walks Sadie a mile in the morning and up to four miles in the evenings, even in the gloomy cold and dark of West Virginia winters.

Regularly walking a dog, Lawson says, can be as much a spiritual journey as a physical one.

“I notice things in my neighborhood that I never saw before,” she says. “This spring, we had a rabbit in my neighborhood. During walks, every time we turn the corner (near the rabbit-sighting spot), Sadie would pick up the pace. She kept doing that long after the rabbit disappeared. … Things like that lighten up my spirit.”

Four-legged trainers

Unfortunately, most Americans likely are not taking advantage of what Lawson calls the “four-legged personal trainer.”

With 65 million dogs, Americans lead the world not only in dog ownership but in obesity rates.

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