Did you know that owning a pet can help improve your overall health? Our dogs are part of our family. Some might say a little “too much” since they sleep in our bed and cuddle up on the couch with us! See all the ways pet owners’ health can prosper—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
This series in divided into 3 parts – the physical, mental and emotional benefits of pet ownership.
PART 1 – Physical Benefits of Owning a Pet
- Exercising, caring for, and just being around pets can boost your overall physical health, lower your risk of developing certain heart-related issues, and ease your aches and pains.
- Pet owners have a better level of fitness. You won’t burn a whole lot of calories watching your pet fish swim around in its bowl. But if you have a dog, you’re likely getting more exercise than those who don’t. Turns out that knowing your pet needs exercise is a powerful motivator to get out and walk. About half of dog owners get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week. That’s the recommended amount. And the benefits don’t stop there. Dog walkers also walk more vigorously than when walking alone, and saw a greater improvement in fitness than those who walked with a human companion. People often talk each other out of getting exercise, but we don’t try to make those lame excuses to our pooches.
- Pets improve your heart health. Watching a cute kitten play or snuggling a dog can be heartwarming. It can also just be plain good for your heart. Pet owners are more likely to have lower resting heart rates and blood pressure than those who are pet-free. And having a dog can increase your likelihood of survival a year after a heart attack. Cats are particularly good for your circulation and cardiovascular health. Studies show that owning a cat at some point in your life can decrease your odds of dying from a heart attack. Cat owners also tend to have fewer strokes. While they fill your heart with love, pets also help keep your heart strong.
- Pet owners can see lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels. This could be, in part, because pet owners tend to be more active. Pets also have been known to warn their diabetic owners ahead of dangerous drops in blood sugar—about one third of dogs with diabetic owners have shown this ability.
- Chronic pain sufferers find some relief when they own pets. Research is unclear as to why pets appear to make it easier to cope with painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Some suspect that caring for a pet helps take your mind off your discomfort and problems. Additionally, when you snuggle up against a warm pet, the heat can soothe pains associated with conditions like fibromyalgia.
- Animals help children build up stronger immunity. Research shows that children who grow up in a household with a dog, cat, or on a farm with livestock are less likely to have allergies. Although pets can be one of the common triggers for asthma, researchers say babies that grow up in a house with a cat are actually less likely to develop the condition when they’re older—unless the mother is allergic to cats.
Look for PART 2 in this series about how owning a pet can help your mental health.