Do you have a pet? If so, why?
Your answer may be simple: your pet is adorable.
And I’d say, good reason. However, although your undying love for your pet is a good enough explanation on its own, research suggests that there’s an added bonus to having Fluffy in your life: he may be great for your health.
Pets have become a staple in the lives of thousands of people around the world. In fact, according to the Humane Society of the U.S., 46% of U.S. households own at least one dog, while 39% own at least one cat.
Consider other kinds of pets, such as fish, parrots, and lizards, and you’d be hard pressed to find a household that doesn’t have a pet these days.
And for good reason. Our furry, feathery, and scaly friends may depend on us for survival, but few of us realize that their presence in our lives equally aids us. According to recent studies, there are many health benefits of pets you may not be aware of.
Here’s Some of the Many Health Benefits of Pets
1. They get you up and moving
Though this benefit clearly doesn’t apply for the goldfish you won at the state fair last week, more active pets can get you off the couch and moving, keeping your lifestyle more active —and as a result, your waistline trimmer, according to the American Heart Association.
Pets like dogs need regular activity to stay healthy, and walking them is often a necessity, no matter how busy your lifestyle is. Walking your dog for an hour can burn over 200 calories. Plus, dogs love their workouts: if Fido looking at you expectantly with his puppy dog eyes isn’t enough motivation to grab his leash and get outside, then nothing is!
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2. They can make you new (human) friends
Between work, sleep, and responsibilities around the house, it can be difficult to find time to socialize. Having an active pet, such as a dog, will force you to leave the confines of the house and see people, which can boost happiness levels, according to UCLA researchers.
Further research shows that walking with a dog creates a “social lubrication effect,” making it more likely to get in conversations with strangers than if the dog was not present.
3. They can keep your stress levels down…
In the fast-paced world we live in today, many are on a constant search to lower their stress levels and learn how to relax. Our pets are a great solution to this common issue. In fact, according to a study conducted and led by SUNY professor Karen Allen, PhD, pet owners’ stress levels are often significantly lower than for those who do not own pets.
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In the study, participants had to mentally solve math problems while having their heart rates and blood pressures monitored. The participants made fewer errors and had lower heart rates and blood pressures when their pets were in the room—even more so than when their spouses, family, and friends were in the room.
4. …and your blood pressure down
Not only can Lassie lower your stress, but your blood pressure as well, according to University at Buffalo researchers. In the study, 24 of 48 stockbrokers being treated for hypertension were given a dog or a cat during a study, while the other half went without. The blood pressure for the first group remained significantly more stable during stressful situations than the second group.
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5. They can help prevent allergies
Though pets are often associated with sneezing and sniffling, our four-legged friends can actually prevent allergies. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that children who grow up in a household with furry pets or on a farm with large animals are less likely to develop allergies, asthma, and even dermatitis, a common skin condition.
In fact, the study suggested that babies who grow up with furred animals may develop a stronger immune system.
6. They’re good for the heart—literally
Your pet may be good for your heart—and not just in the mushy literary way, either. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), studies show that pet ownership may keep your heart healthy and keep cardiovascular issues at bay.
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There are proven health benefits of pets including: they’ll get you moving and social, reduce stress and blood pressure, prevent allergies, and help your heart. If you don’t already own a pet, adding a new furry friend to your household may improve the quality—and perhaps even the quantity—of your years.
And if you already have a Fido in your life, give him some extra love today for all of the health benefits he provides you.
Featured photo by Sukanto Debnath