If you’ve ever owned a pet, you already know how much fun and affection they can bring. But did you know that pets also come with some pretty powerful mental and physical health benefits? Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Caring for a dog can help children grow up more secure and active or provide valuable companionship for older adults. Perhaps most importantly, though, a dog can add real joy and unconditional love to your life.
1) Improves Immunity
If the idea of cuddling with a pet to help ward off allergies seems a little backwards to you, the following may come as a surprise: University of Wisconsin-Madison paediatrician James E. Gern has conducted a number of studies that demonstrate having a pet in the home can actually lower a child’s likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent.
In fact, his research — as published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology — shows that children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall. While this might not mean much for adults who are already struggling with longstanding allergies, it is good news for families in which this isn’t already an established issue, but rather just a concern about what could happen down the road.
2) Date Magnets
Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking — a dog is a natural conversation starter.
It can be an instant icebreaker, whether they’re with you or you’re just using them as a topic of conversation. Of course, few people would suggest getting a pet solely for this purpose, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that pets provide a great means for improving your socialisation skills across the board, especially in terms of meeting and interacting with other pet owners. Though people sometimes may have a hard time getting to know each other, pets can be the common denominator that helps them connect — even among people who don’t seem to be very much alike.
3) Increases Heart Health
Many pet owners would agree that a pet can fill your heart with love. So maybe it’s only fitting that the presence of a pet can help improve the overall health of that organ, too.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted heart-related studies on people who have pets. The findings showed that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels — all of which can ultimately minimize their risk for having a heart attack down the road.
4) Keep you Active
This is perhaps no surprise to owners that frequently walk or exercise with their dogs. After all, dogs are more likely to beg for a walk or a game of fetch than other house pets.
According to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Public Health, children with dogs spent more time doing moderate to vigorous physical activity than children without dogs.
And this effect extends to adult dog owners. According to a 2006 study done by Canadian researchers at the University of Victoria, dog owners were more likely to participate in mild to moderate physical activity. They walked an average of 300 minutes per week, compared with non-dog owners, who walked an average of 168 minutes per week.
5) Beat the Blues
Pets are a great way to beat the blues. Not only are they known to they offer unconditional love, but they may also give their owners a sense of purpose, which can be crucial for those feeling down in the dumps. Pets also combat feelings of loneliness by providing companionship, which can boost your overall mood and even bring you feelings of joy and happiness.
People in stress mode get into a “state of dis-ease,” in which harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system. Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties.
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