June 1, 2009 / 1:25 PM / 8 years ago

Trainer aims to get couch and lap potatoes in shape

4 Min Read

<p>Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson demonstrates power dog walks from his PetFit.com workout video, Los Angeles, in this 2008 handout photograph.Hill's Pet Nutrition/Handout</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - One of Hollywood's top celebrity trainers is on a mission to turn people and their pets into the biggest losers.

The Beverly Hills-based fitness guru Gunnar Peterson, known for helping the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Sylvester Stallone stay in shape, has created a series of workout videos for people to do with their dogs and cats.

"It's about getting fit with your pet," said Peterson from Los Angeles. "We're all short of time, so we combine the two."

And just in time. Veterinarians say that as human waistlines keep expanding, so do the torsos, and health issues, of our furry friends.

"Just as we've become a nation of couch potatoes, we've created a nation of lap potatoes in our pets," said Dr. Ernest Ward, president of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), a group of veterinarians dedicated to reducing obesity in pets.

"Over 44 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats are now estimated to be overweight or obese," he said, citing the latest APOP study.

In an interview from Calabash, North Carolina Ward added that when he graduated from veterinary school 17 years ago, pet obesity wasn't an issue.

But now it's an epidemic, even in Beverly Hills.

"Last night I saw a guy walking three bulldogs," Peterson said. "He was fat, the dogs were fatter -- like little duffle bags with legs."

Meanwhile, veterinarians are seeing increased diabetes in cats, more arthritic problems in dogs and an explosion of cardiac disease in both, according to American Veterinary Medicine Association spokesperson Dr. Gregory S. Hammer.

Overfeeding owners may tell themselves that food is love, but Hammer suspects laziness has more to do with it.

"It is easier to toss treats to your pets than to put on sneakers and take them for a walk or get on the floor and play with them," he said from Dover, Delaware.

<p>Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson demonstrates dog squat tease from his PetFit.com workout videos in Los Angeles, in this 2008 handout photograph.Hill's Pet Nutrition/Handout</p>

Peterson said he became interested in pet fitness when he realized he was neglecting his own four mastiff dogs.

"I used to walk them up the hill every day, every night. Then it became: I'll just open the door and let them go," he said.

"It's like your second and third child. The first one you watch like a hawk, then you relax," he added.

The videos, made in partnership with Hills Pet Nutrition, a pet food company, are free and downloadable on Petfit.com.

The easy-to-do workouts expand on basic, everyday activities. Power Dog Walk with Intervals combines dog walking with jogging and running. Dog Tag mimics the timeless children's game.

"I didn't want to make it too hokey," Peterson said.

"Walking the dog is a burden. I want to turn it into a bonding experience," he said.

It worked so well that during the filming Peterson, a diehard dog person, bonded with a cat.

"In one sequence I'm doing these crunches and holding a flashlight as a white cat chases the beam along a wall," he recalled.

"The cat was all over the place," he said. " I laughed so hard I had double the abdominal contractions."

Not bad for the man whose video set for people is entitled "Core Secrets."

"By the end of the day I loved that cat."

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