Your 4-Legged Friend Can Improve Your Health

As the saying goes, “The dog is man’s best friend.”  And, now we have proof.  Pets, especially dogs, can help you live a longer life. Various studies by the National Institute of Health, the American Heart Association and universities confirm that dog ownership can help you live a longer, healthier and more productive life.

According to a recent study, canine companions may reduce our risk of premature death by up to a third.  From an analysis of more than 3.4 million adults, researchers found that people who owned dogs — particularly those in single-person households — were at lower risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality over a 12-year period, compared with people who didn’t have dogs.

The study was conducted by researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden, and the findings were recently reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

Do you have a 4-legged family member? Having a furry companion improves your health in many ways.

Heart Health

According to Cuteness.com, “Dog owners get more exercise just by taking their dog out for a walk. The American Heart Association says that 54 percent of dog owners are likely to get the recommended amount of exercise for good health. All this exercise lowers cardiovascular risks and cholesterol levels, making pet owners healthier and more likely to live longer lives.”

Blood Pressure

Petting your dog feels good and it can lower your blood pressure, helps your body release a relaxation hormone, and cuts down on levels of a stress hormone. It also soothes your pet, says Alan Beck, ScD, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University.

Socialization

While it may seem a bit counterintuitive, owning a dog actually increases a person’s opportunities to socialize.  A 1999 Canadian study found that pet owners were more “socially engaged” than non–pet owners.  Additionally, an Austrian study found that pet ownership led to an increase in social contact, more socialization within neighborhoods [such as neighbors chatting as they walk their dogs], and even a greater perception to observers that the neighborhood seems “friendly.”

Allergy Prevention

Pets can dramatically improve immunity and prevent allergies. “A study found that children ages 5 to 7 from pet-owning households attend school three weeks more per year than those who don’t have pets,” says Marty Becker, DVM, veterinary consultant for Good Morning America and author of the book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual. He also says that the more pets you have earlier in life, the fewer allergies you will develop. “Kids who grow up on farms and around animals don’t have allergies,” he says. “That dander on that hair, that’s natural immunotherapy.” But, he notes that this effect is not reversible. Getting a pet as an adult will not minimize allergies; it only helps prevent certain allergies from developing in children.

Child Development

Children who grow up in households with pets benefit in myriad ways, especially in their emotional development. When a child is attached to a dog or cat, they learn to express themselves in more ways and they learn to relate better.  Pets are also very beneficial to children with special needs such as autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). For children with ADHD, taking care of a pet can encourage them to focus on responsibilities through a predictable routine. While the sensory experience of holding and petting an animal can be soothing for children with autism.

 

Are you looking to add a furry friend to your household? Please adopt, don’t shop. Many wonderful animals are hoping to be adopted into loving families and your local animal shelter is literally full of beautiful animals who would love to be your new 4-legged baby. The pet you save today may actually save your health – or your life – tomorrow.

Learn how Fitness for Health can help you improve your mind-body connection utilizing state-of-the-art, fitness technology.