Why Having Pets Can Help Your Health

Owning pets — especially the ones who crave our affection — is one of the best ways to find companionship and beat the blues that can get you down when you’re spending too much time on your own. Studies have shown that having a furry friend can also drastically improve your health and overall wellbeing. Now, I’m not suggesting that people with debilitating allergies to dogs should run out and buy one because the positives of owning a dog outweigh the negatives of being allergic to them, and I’m not saying that you should buy a pet purely for the health benefits, either. That being said, having a pet that you care about (and who cares about you), or choosing to adopt a pet because you want companionship can have remarkable effects on your health, and here are just a few.

Dogs keep you moving.

You can’t exactly put your pet fish on a leash and go for a stroll, but if you have a dog that you can walk — or even a cat you can chase around the house — you’ll be getting more exercise than your pet-less counterparts without even realizing it. A study by the National Institute of Health and Welfare found that people who owned dogs were vastly more likely than others to get in 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, which is the recommended amount of exercise a person should get.

They can lower your stress levels & help your heart.

On top of the benefits your heart will receive from playing with your pet regularly, the very act of owning a dog can help lower your stress levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. Dogs have a calming effect on humans, and the simple act of petting a dog can lower your blood pressure. Also, by reducing your stress levels, pets can decrease the amount strain on your heart.

Having a pet can boost your immune system.

Okay, this benefit is really only for babies, but it’s an important one. If you’re looking to have children, also having a dog in the house can prove beneficial for the baby’s immune system, particularly reducing issues with asthma and allergies. During their first year of life, babies with dogs (or cats) in the house have lower rates of colds and ear infections as compared to babies without them, and the best practice is to introduce the dog and baby before the baby turns 6 months old.

Owning a dog can help improve mental health.

An article published in the 2011 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed the remarkable mental health benefits associated with owning a dog. For the study, 217 people were interviewed, answering questions that were all targeting at discerning the respondents’ personality type and overall wellbeing. In each case, the people who owned pets were found to be healthier, happier, and more well-adjusted than people who didn’t.

Dogs make you happier.

Humans aren’t meant to be alone. In fact, studies suggest that loneliness could actually be bad for your health. By having a furry friend to come home to at the end of the day, you help give your life purpose in your own mind (even if it is just to take care of a pet) and give yourself something — or someone — to care about and live for. Since we crave companionship, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel with a pal to keep you company.

Originally published at nicole-monturo.net on August 1, 2016.

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