Physical benefits of pet ownership
From snuggling up after a long day to enjoying a nature walk on a beautiful afternoon, pets can be cherished companions in accompanying one through life. Anyone who has experienced the unconditional love a pet can give knows how invaluable this support can be.
But did you know that the benefits of pets may go beyond emotional support and can actually result in positive physical effects as well?
While research into human and pet relationships is ongoing, some recent results have been promising.
Stress is a normal and natural part of life. But in today’s society, it can easily become chronic. Everything from an overextended schedule to worldwide health issues can create excess stress which makes having healthy ways to process it all the more essential. And engaging with pets may be one of the best ways to decompress.
Snuggling, petting, and interacting with a pet can lower cortisol levels and calm the fight or flight response to stress. Considering stress may be related to up to 80% of all primary care visits, taking time to play fetch after work may be just as beneficial for you as for the dog.
In addition, oxytocin (known as the “feel-good” hormone) can be released while engaging with a pet. Oxytocin has significant links to overall happiness and has been known to benefit cognitive function and heart health, social interaction and relationships, and overall wellbeing. It may even help curb addictive behaviors.
Owning a pet that needs exercise can increase your own movement throughout the day, a useful tool for weight management.
Research has shown that dog owners not only walk more per week on average than those without dogs, but that the intensity of the movement was more vigorous than those who did not own a dog.
Bonding with pets may have positive effects on cardiovascular health, particularly by helping to regulate blood pressure.
Because long-term stress can have detrimental effects on the heart, both cats and dogs have been shown to be beneficial for reducing stress that may ultimately lead to heart disease.
In addition to blood pressure, lower rates of high cholesterol and diabetes have also been observed in pet owners.
The body’s microbiome (which supports neurotransmitter creation, digestion, and immunity) is vital to overall health and pets can play a vital role in this aggregate of microbes.
Those with household pets may have more beneficial bacteria, viruses, and fungi in their systems much in thanks to the germs and dander pets track in from the outdoors.
While this can impact adults and children alike, this may have even greater importance on infants who are developing their microbiomes – especially in their first three months. Those who develop a strong microbiome in younger years may have a decreased risk of asthma and allergies if exposed to helpful allergens early on.
While there are many benefits to pet ownership, these researched physical advantages are becoming more widely recognized as some of the most valuable.
So next time your dog begs for a walk, take them on one as a way of saying thank you for all you do.