The Couch to 5K program lets your dog be your training partner. | Photos courtesy CAS

The battle of the bulge is not just for people anymore. 

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 74% of adults aged 20 and older are overweight, including those clinically diagnosed with obesity. What might be surprising — and hiding in plain sight — is that 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to a 2008 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Could your dog be your new best exercise partner? A 2012 “People and Pets Exercising Together” study demonstrated that a higher percentage of people completed a one-year exercise program when they exercised with their dogs (61% versus 58%). Plus, the dual benefit of the research showed that 5% of the people and 15% of the pets in the study lost weight. 

This year, Charleston Animal Society partnered with health and fitness experts at Roper St. Francis Healthcare to create the first “Couch to 5K Training Program’’ for both people and pets. The goal of the 6- or 8-week program was for dogs and their humans to develop an exercise regimen and prepare them to participate in the Celebrity Paws in the Park 5K Run or Walk together.

The Couch to 5K Training Program is a free series of video training segments and downloadable guides featuring Danielle Greenman, athletic trainer with Roper St. Francis Healthcare, and Animal Planet’’s “My Big Fat Pet Makeover” dog trainer Travis Brorsen. The materials are all available at paws.charlestonanimalsociety.org under the “Couch to 5K” tab. 

Videos guide participants through preparation, hydration, food, safety, obstacles and developing a fitness plan. There is an overview section as well as content crafted specially for people and dogs. Each offers a handy guide for easy reference. 

“This training series instructs even novice pet owners on how to select the right collar and leash, provide proper food and hydration, and train dogs to be safe and fun exercise partners,” Brorsen said. “Our goal in creating the video series was to provide a fun and easy tool where people working with their dogs can get fit together.”

The Couch to 5K Training Program is generously sponsored by Roper St. Francis Healthcare, the Lowcountry’s only not-for-profit healthcare system.

Sean Hawkins, CAWA, CFRE, is the Chief Advancement Officer for Charleston
Animal Society.