Your pet might be considered “man or woman’s best friend,” however, the unconditional love, acceptance, and support our furry, feathered, and four-legged friends provide goes far beyond basic companionship.
Here are ten ways that owning a pet is keeping you healthy, happy, and fit…
1. More Steps Each Week
An obvious perk of owning a dog is improved physical activity. Research from the University of Missouri compared dog walkers to non-dog owners and found that dog owners boasted an average of 300-minutes of physical activity per week—while non-pooch owners only walked a mere 168-minutes each week.
2. Improves Mental Wellbeing
Arriving home to a happy face—especially one that goes with a vigorously wagging tail, a few sloppy kisses, or a load purr can really melt your workday stress. In fact, research from the University of Minnesota’s Boynton Health Services department suggests that animal companionship greatly improves mental health and lowers anxiety.
3. Ease Allergies
Did you know that kids with pets suffer less eczema, hay fever, asthma, and general upper respiratory symptoms? According to research quoted in the journal, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, babies who live in homes with pets are less likely to develop allergy-related conditions because of early exposure to dander and allergens, and the development of stronger immunity.
4. Reduces Bad Cholesterol
I don’t have to tell you that owning a pet, specifically a dog; will get you moving more often. So leashing up Fido and heading on a hike is not only good for the fluffy part of your duo—it also keeps your weight and bad cholesterol in check. In fact, research from both the American Heart Association and the Australian National Heart Foundation found that male pet owners enjoy much lower and healthier cholesterol and triglyceride levels thanks to motivation from their furry friends.
5. Wards Off Depression
If you’re worried about your mental health, a pet can help! Research from the British Psychological Society claims pets can help lower social anxiety and boost self-esteem in their owners thanks to the calming effects of unconditional acceptance—especially in those prone to feelings of low self-worth and depression.
6. Soothes Stress
There is something extremely calming about petting my cat. Just having him curled up in the same room as me has taught me a lot about relaxation. The calming effect of our pets is thanks to a powerful neurochemical called oxytocin, which a research study from the State University of New York at Buffalo linked to decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone) and blood pressure by approximately 50-percent, and lowering the symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) considerably.
7. Lowers Blood Pressure
As a matter of fact, the same group of studies from Buffalo State University, in New York credits pets for drastically reducing hypertension symptoms. The study monitored pet owners who took blood pressure medication and found that those who owned pets experienced a 50-percent decrease in overall blood pressure response.
8. Strengthens Social Bonds
In both younger and older adults, those with pets tend to show stronger community and social ties compared to those without pets, according to research from the Journal of Applied Developmental Science. Indeed, pet-owners displayed more confidence, greater social empathy, and took on more leadership roles than non-pet owners.