When you come home to tail wags and purrs at the end of a long, hard day, those feelings of calm and happiness aren’t just your imagination. Studies suggest that your furry friend truly improves both your physical and mental health. The companionship and unconditional love pets provide make a bigger difference in our lives than we might realise. From lowering blood pressure to helping improve our relationships, pets are pros at making us happier, healthier human beings.
Being a pet owner greatly benefits your heart health, according to a study conducted by the American Heart Association. It also concluded that pets reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing stress and lowering blood pressure. Taking your pet for a stroll or simply stroking your dog or cat can reduce your pulse rate.
Research has also shown pet owners even have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, further improving their heart health. This is especially evident in owners who regularly walk their dogs. If you’re looking for a holistic approach to preventing heart disease, adopting a furry friend may be the solution.
Our pets profoundly change our brain’s biochemistry. Simply being in the same vicinity as your pet can invoke relaxation and peace. These feelings arise due to a release of oxytocin within our bodies, which then slows breathing and inhibits the production of stress hormones.
Speaking to and petting our dogs or cats can also release beta-endorphins — natural painkillers — and create a spike in dopamine levels. These neurochemicals are essential to our sense of wellbeing and self-worth. Studies have also shown that pet owners enjoy increased serotonin levels, improving their mood and overall sense of happiness.
There’s no doubt about it, pets, especially dogs, improve your fitness. In fact, dog-walkers improve their fitness more than people who stroll with others. Dog owners walk more than twice as much as non-owners and are 54% more likely to meet recommended physical activity levels.
Owners also have higher overall levels of moderate and vigorous physical activities, suggesting that owning a pet contributes to a healthier way of life apart from just walking your dog. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and meeting recommended benchmarks will improve both long-term physical and mental health, even as you age. People tend to be less active the older they get, but owning a dog can keep you moving, even after those gray hairs start to come in.
If you’re looking to take your fitness to the next level, several dog breeds are naturally more energetic and athletic than others. Consider adopting a labrador retriever, a collie or a dalmatian. These breeds will be more than capable of keeping up with you and will prove to be an amazing fitness pal for years to come.
Pets have the incredible ability to bring people and keep people together. Just think about how many times you’ve asked to pet a stranger’s dog. Simply taking your pup on a walk or to a patio for brunch can increase social interaction and promote bonding — even with complete strangers. Therefore, owning a pet can improve your sense of community and help you create new friendships.
Couples that have cats or dogs are also more likely to be content in their relationship compared to those who don’t own animals. Because pets reduce stress and blood pressure, couples who own them are likely to experience less conflict and handle disagreements better.
Healthy Pet, Healthy Owner
Our pets have a way of taking care of us in unexpected ways, but only if we take care of them, too. Pet owners who actively love on and play with their animal companions are more likely to experience the health benefits. Stroke your cat to relieve stress. Exercise your dog and enjoy improved fitness levels. Make new friends by letting your pooch make new ones, too. By taking care of and creating a bond with our animals, we create a better life for both our pets and ourselves.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.