When it comes to physical fitness and overall wellbeing, moderate exercise and stress relieving activities can play an important role. These activities may include music, spending time with friends and family or playing with your pet. However, life often becomes busy and finding time to regularly workout or unwind with friends is sometimes difficult. Pet owners seem to be physically and mentally healthier as spending time with pets is believed to reduce anxiety and stress.

Here are the top five health benefits of owning a pet.

Support Mental Health
Stress is a health epidemic but having pets helps to reduce stress. Petting a cat or dog promotes the release of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, all of which have calming and happiness-inducing effects on our bodies. This effect has been most studied in cats and dogs, but having a pet fish can also relax our minds.

  • A pet’s therapeutic qualities can be amplified with proper training.
  • Therapy and emotional assistance companion animals can signal to people when they are entering a crisis state. They can also mitigate some of the symptoms of serious conditions like PTSD and anxiety.
  • Cats and dogs appear on college campuses, in hospitals, and in nursing homes with the intention of providing calm and comfort to those in need.

Get More Exercise
With desk jobs, rush-hour traffic, and a plethora of electronic devices, it is easy to pass the day in a sedentary state.

  • Research shows that dog owners are in better shape than their non-dog-owning peers. Since dogs require regular walks and playtime, their owners are more apt to venture outside and get more exercise.
  • Pet owners must establish a schedule to balance their pet’s needs with human responsibilities. Having a regular schedule provides people with structure during their time off which may be helpful for people who work from home or those who are retired.

Pets are Heart Healthy
Stress reduction and exercise are good for your heart.

  • Pet owners are less likely to have a heart attack than people without pets, and people who do suffer from cardiovascular disease tend to recover more quickly if they are pet owners.
  • Research has found a correlation between pet ownership and lower blood pressure.
  • Other factors, such as triglyceride levels and cholesterol, may be positively affected by pet ownership.

Boost Confidence
Interaction with others is important for our health and wellbeing. Even shy people must take their pets out and interact with other pet owners. People who have difficulty with reading may experience a boost in self-esteem by reading to animals. This confidence boost can make people happier and healthier regardless of age.

Elderly people gain extra benefits from the social interactions that pets support. People who interact with and connect to other beings (human or otherwise) tend to be happier. Their longevity is increased by the sense of purpose that owning and caring for a pet provides.

Aids with Allergies and Prevents Illness
Studies have shown that exposure to pet dander at an early age can lead to fewer allergies later in life. Beyond exposure to pets indoors, children are also more likely to go outside and interact with their environment with a pet.

  • Having a pet can also boost the immune system.
  • When kids interact with pets, they are exposed to many different types of bacteria. Exposure to helpful bacteria can change the way that a person’s body responds to illnesses later in life.

Pet ownership affects physical and mental health in a number of ways. Healthy people require fewer doctor visits, they tend to live longer, and they tend to be happier. When one owns a pet, one not only feels the joy and love that a pet’s companionship provides, but they experience research-backed health benefits as well.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Kim Tacconi, PA-C