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Orange County Register (California)

Kelle King wore leggings and a Spandex tank top as she lunged back and forth over a step platform. Her workout partner, Kaiya, wore a collar and leash for her turn to leap across.

King, 30, and her year-old German shepherd mix were demonstrating pieces of gym equipment that pets and people can use together to stay fit, at last week's IDEA World Fitness Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center.

In another sequence, King and Kaiya used a Bosu ball, a type of balance ball that rests flat on the floor. King stretched out to a plank position with her hands on the ball. Kaiya rested her front paws on the other side of the ball.

"She's had so much fun," said King, who lives in North Hollywood. "She's never done any of this before. I was really impressed with how quickly she picked it up and enjoyed it."

For the first time at the 27th annual conference, dogs were in attendance along with fitness professionals who promoted everything from apparel to energy drinks.

Tricia Montgomery of Chicago started K9 Fit Club in 2012, which she says is the nation's first facility for humans and dogs to use together. She recently launched an online trainer certification program in hopes of spreading the program across the country.

"As we as a nation have gotten more obese, our dogs have gotten more obese beside us," Montgomery said from her demonstration booth, wearing a T-shirt that read, "Working out is not so ruff."

While the federal government says 69 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, that figure is 53 percent for dogs, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. In both cases, the culprits are too many calories and not enough activity.

A study by Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago found that overweight owners who exercise with their dogs are more likely to lose weight and stay motivated than those who work out on their own.

"If you look at all the guidelines, the No. 1 recommendation is, Americans need to walk more," Dr. Robert Kushner, who conducted the study, said in a previous interview with the Register. "You don't see a lot of overweight people walking overweight dogs because they're both indoors on the couch watching TV. We tried to turn that around."

Montgomery, 50, can confirm that finding. She began losing weight 20 years ago after an appointment, not with her doctor, but with her dog Louie's veterinarian.

"He said, 'Louie has gained some weight,' and he folded his hands and said, 'You're not getting any thinner. He's gaining weight and you're gaining weight.' "

Montgomery, who at the time weighed 265 pounds, was so upset that she left without paying the bill.

"I cried and I binged," she recalled.

But she began taking her Basset hound for evening walks and they climbed stairs together. Ultimately, she lost 130 pounds and Louie shed about 4 pounds.

"He's your best motivator," Montgomery said. "He'll never quit on you. He'll never call and cancel. All he wants to do is please."

Montgomery said class sizes are limited and dogs typically catch on quickly. Frequent water breaks are included to make sure the furry participants don't get too tired.

Rachel Cantore, 29, of Laguna Niguel is a personal trainer who plans to launch K9 Fit Club classes in Orange County. She said pets and owners both build strength and endurance.

"These dogs come in with all this energy," Cantore said. "At the end of class, you can tell they've gotten their workout. They're tired, they're mellow."

To learn more, visit k9fitclub.com


cperkes@ocregister.com 714-796-3686

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