Excerpt: 'Fitness Unleashed'

Take a good look at yourself and your dog.

Are you both overweight? If so, then Dr. Marty Becker's book, "Fitness Unleashed," was written with you in mind.

His book tells how pet owners can lose weight along with their dogs, teaching them how to gain healthier habits together.

Below is an excerpt from the book.

Chapter One: The People and Pets Health Connection

People and dogs have always leaned on one another. In return for food, shelter, and affection, dogs are helpmates in everything from retrieving downed ducks to guarding the house and guiding the blind. For most of us, though, the services we receive from our dogs are much less utilitarian but equally endearing: they adore us when we're up, when we're down, and even when we're having a bad hair day, wearing our rattiest old bathrobe, and feeling cranky. They sit on (not just at) our feet, wait for us at the door, and go to great lengths to wriggle into a spot right beside us whenever they can get away with it. They make us laugh by being silly and full of puppy charm, regardless of their age; and they have an uncanny ability to read our emotions and sync themselves up, ready and willing to be cheerful or mad just because we are.

Somehow all the small acts of affection, concern, loyalty, and furriness add up to more than just gestures and companionship. Research has proven that having a dog is good for your health in a number of measurable and not-so-measurable ways. Studies show that people who own pets tend to have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels than those who don't. Pet owners have better odds of surviving heart attacks than patients without pets. As a group, pet owners find their chronic pain diminished, make fewer trips to the doctor, are less medicated, less lonely, less depressed, and less stressed than their petless counterparts and those are just the subtle, unintended benefits of time spent with our four-legged and furry companions. For those who deliberately harness the health benefits of pets, there are even greater rewards to be reaped. Dogs have been trained to provide services that assist people with a vast range of needs -- including guiding the blind, serving as hearing companions for the deaf, helping the physically challenged to overcome obstacles, and serving to alert their owners of imminent seizures or blood-sugar imbalances. Dogs are used to tremendous effect in therapeutic and educational settings, doing everything from helping kids learn to read in classrooms to providing much-needed inspiration for residents of nursing homes to increase their levels of activity and social interaction.

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