As any dog owner could tell you, having a furry best friend has many benefits. Loyal, dependable, the loving cuddles, and sloppy kisses, the list can go on. But, did you know that owning a dog can have positive impacts on your physical and mental health?
Keeps You Active
Dogs love the outdoors, whether that includes going for a walk, playing fetch, or simply enjoying the sunshine. This behavior encourages their owners to spend less time inside and more time staying active outside. With most health experts recommending that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, those who own a dog are more likely to meet these goals.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Love your dog with all your heart? Your dog is helping to make your heart stronger! Studies show that the physical activities linked to owning a dog improve your cardiovascular health, leading dog owners to have less heart attacks than their pet-less counterparts. Dog owners tend to have reduced blood pressure, decreased cholesterol, and lower triglyceride levels.
Meet Your Weight Loss Goals
All this physical activity from owning a dog can help you lose those extra pounds! Taking your dog for a daily walk is a great way to ensure that you get in those steps. The best part? Your exercise partner is always ready to go and pretty dang cute.
Improve Symptoms of Depression
Dogs put you in a better state of mind and can have a positive impact on those suffering from depression. Gary Christenson, Chief Medical Officer at the University of Minnesota’s Boynton Health Service says, "Animals give something to focus on instead of the negative thoughts a depressed person is prone to have. When a pet pays attention to you, they're giving you unconditional love and acceptance." Even if you do not suffer from depression, everyone can benefit from a little unconditional love.
Improves Social Life
As you get older, it can become harder to “get out there” and socialize. Dogs make it easier for their owner to socialize with others. Dogs are a great conversation starter, even if they are not present. People open up when asked about their pets, and even those who don’t own an animal are typically happy to hear stories about another’s furry friend.
Reduces Stress and Improves Anxiety
Anxiety and stress can take a huge toll on a person and your dog is there to help. Studies with students, working adults, and elderly have shown that individuals who were examined before and after interacting with dogs showed significant decreases in their anxiety and blood pressure, as well as becoming happier and having more energy after the interaction. Studies also show that dogs increase serotonin and dopamine levels, which the brain releases to feel calm and happy.
With so many wonderful ways a dog can affect your life, it sounds like a dog could be a great addition to any family!
Written by D. Maves for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC.
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