More than a third of Canadian homes have a dog and could most likely reel off the many advantages to owning one. But having a pet has been shown in studies to significantly improve the health of humans. This is particularly true if you have a pet that needs exercising, or is extremely affectionate. The mental and physical health benefits can often be seen within weeks.
Boosting immunity and fitness
Getting out in the fresh air and walking or running with your dog is undoubtedly good for you. Not only do you get a good old dose of sunlight and thus vitamin D, essential for healthy bones, but your muscles and heart get an excellent cardio workout. Exercise is believed to help reduce pain by increasing our own natural painkiller, endorphins. There is also some evidence that caring for a pet and stroking them distracts us from chronic pain. Studies have shown that young children who live with a pet have higher levels of immunity and seem less prone to developing allergies in later life.
Spending some quality time with your pet
The action of stroking and cuddling a pet has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and increase the feel-good hormones like dopamine. The calming effect of stroking your pet makes us feel better, but it also has some powerful physiological effects. Petting Fido or Fluffy can lead to a lowering of blood pressure, reduce stress levels, lower cholesterol and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Helping with mental health
Most people who live with a pet, especially senior citizens, report far fewer feelings of loneliness. In one Canadian study, 82.5 percent of participants indicated that their pet has had a strong positive impact on their life. Not only is a pet something for them to care for, they can reduce depression and boost self-esteem. They encourage social interactions and routines, both vital for seniors. Pets can be extremely beneficial and therapeutic to dementia patients, as they encourage non-verbal communication. In a home setting a pet can bring the family together and strengthen bonds; getting out for a hike with the kids and the dog can be very therapeutic for all involved.
For the majority of us owning a pet, especially a dog, has clear health benefits at all stages of our life. From exercising and talking to fellow walkers in the park, to stress busting and combatting depression and loneliness, owning a pet can enhance everyone’s health and wellbeing.
Written & Contributed by: Jackie Writing