Objective: Obesity is a significant public health problem that is affecting people and their pets. The human-companion animal bond and the role of pets in providing social support provides a rationale framework for studying the effectiveness of a combined people and pets (PP) exercising together (PPET) weight loss program.
Research methods and procedures: Thirty-six pairs of overweight or obese people with an obese pet (PP) and 56 overweight or obese people only (PO) participated in a 1-year prospective controlled weight loss study. In a group format, people received dietary and physical activity counseling, and dogs were fed a calorie-controlled prescription diet. Physical activity was recorded using the physical activity recall questionnaire.
Results: Completion rates at 1 year were 61% for the PP group and 58% for the PO group. Mean weight losses at 12 months using last observation carried forward were 4.7% (PP) and 5.2% (PO). Mean weight loss among the dogs was 15%. Time spent in physical activity increased in both groups to 3.9 (PP) and 3.5 (PO) h/wk. Two-thirds of total physical activity in the PP group was spent with the dogs.
Discussion: The PPET study is the first program to demonstrate the effectiveness of a combined PP weight loss program. This fresh approach to the dual obesity epidemic builds on the human-companion animal bond. Consideration of social support for weight loss of family members, friends, and coworkers should be extended to include pets.