Can Your Pet Help You Be Healthier?
Having a pet, especially a dog, may be good for your health and lower your risk of heart disease. From getting more exercise to lowering stress and blood pressure levels, the benefits of pet ownership may even help you live longer.
The Truth About Cats and Dogs
Studies have shown that having a pet can help increase fitness levels, relieve stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boost overall happiness and wellbeing. Pets also provide social support, which is an important factor in helping you stick with new healthy habits.1
Besides the obvious value of a good snuggle, what’s the connection between pets and our health? The association is not entirely clear. It may be that healthier people are more likely to be pet owners, or that people with pets tend to be more physically active because they walk and play with them.
Walking for the Win
Most of the research has focused on dogs and physical activity. It’s no surprise that people who walk their dogs are more likely to get the recommended amount of physical activity than those who don’t.2 One study found that dog-walkers got an average of 30 minutes more exercise a day than non-walkers.3
Try these tips for being active together. Your dog, and your heart, will thank you!
- Go on a picnic. Pack some healthy snacks like fruit, veggies, mixed nuts, and plenty of water, including a bowl for your dog! Bring some fun toys like a frisbee or ball and play a game of catch.
- Cool off in the sprinklers. When it’s hot, grab swimsuits and sunscreen and run around with your kids and pooch in the cooling spray.
- Take a dip. If you live near a beach, lake or pool that is dog-friendly, bring your pupster along for a swim.
- Go for a walk. Participate in local fundraising walks (like the Heart Walk) or fun runs with the whole family. Check to make sure dogs are allowed. You’ll be getting active together while supporting a great cause.
- Park it. If your dog plays well with others, hit up the local dog park to toss a ball or just run with the pack.
- Play ball. Head outside anytime to enjoy some fresh air and a quick game of fetch or keep-away. Even if you only have 10 or 15 minutes to spare, you and your dog will get some exercise and bonding time.
- Walk home from school. If your kids can walk home from school or a bus drop-off point, bring the dog to meet them and walk home together.
Keeping It Real
Of course, we’re not suggesting adopting a pet as a cure-all for bad habits. The primary purpose of pet adoption or rescue should be to provide the animal a loving home and to enjoy the companionship. But if having a pet will help you move more, then it’s a win-win!
The bottom line is, whether or not you have a pet, being more active and less stressed can help you live a longer, healthier life.
Last Reviewed 2/2018
1About Pets & People, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, accessed February 2018
2Walking your dog helps your heart, American Heart Association News, May 2013
3Dog ownership supports the maintenance of physical activity during poor weather in older English adults, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, July 2017
Copyright © 2018 American Heart Association, Healthy For GoodTM, heart.org/healthyforgood