Why Improving Your Health is Going to the Dogs (and Cats)
By Rozy Dunham, MD, Cardiologist – Virtua Cardiology
When it comes to improving your health, you probably know the basics by now: eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, manage stress. But here’s one more tip that might surprise you: own a pet.
You may have thought your fur baby couldn’t get any more paw-some, but it’s true! Bonding with pets does much more than make you happy—it can also have positive effects on your physical and mental well-being.
Power of pets
How exactly do pets help your health? For starters, they can increase opportunities for you to get outside and exercise. Studies have shown that dog owners are more physically active than non-owners, even during poor weather (Rain or shine, Fido needs to go out!). British researchers found that dog-walkers got an average of 30 minutes more exercise a day than non-walkers.
Another study released last fall found dog owners were more active, had better levels of blood fat and blood sugar, and were less likely to be obese, compared to people who didn’t own a dog.
But what if you’re not a dog person? (You know Mr. Whiskers isn’t going to join you for a walk outside.) Not a problem! According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, simply playing with pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels.
Whether it’s a dog or cat, playing with a pet can reduce the negative effects of chronic stress, including high blood pressure and unhealthy behaviors like overeating, smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
New leash on life
Ready to add a pet member to the family? Here are some ideas to consider:
Adopt your new best friend. When you adopt, you can save a life—and open up shelter space for another animal who needs it. To search for pets in your area, visit www.petfinder.com or www.adoptapet.com.
Become a foster parent. By temporarily bringing a pet into your home, you can give them the care they need to be ready for adoption. A fulfilling experience, fostering offers the chance to change an animal’s life for the better. Learn more fostering at www.aspca.org or www.bestfriends.org.
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Updated February 11, 2020