When you come home to a purr or a wagging tail at the end of a busy day, the sense of wellbeing that comes over you isn't just your imagination. The love and companionship that your dog or cat provides can boost your emotional and physical wellness.
Studies have shown that pets are good for your heart – literally. Owning a pet decreases stress, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, which all have noticeable effects on the health of the cardiovascular system.
Pets also have a positive impact on your mood. Their playfulness and unconditional devotion to you are natural mood enhancers that help to lift your spirits, combat feelings of loneliness, and decrease depression, stress and anxiety. Pets also add structure and meaning to your day. Many require a consistent schedule, which in turn encourages you to become more organized and focused on everyday tasks – no matter how you are feeling.
When it comes to helping you stay in shape, dogs are the pet of choice to help you meet your fitness goals. In fact there is a quote (Anonymous) that says: “If your dog is fat, you are not getting enough exercise”.
Dr. Ross Andersen, a professor and researcher in the department of kinesiology and physical education and director of the McGill Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health (PATH), has conducted research on the activity levels of dog owners.
“Dog owners tend to be more active than non-dog owners, since a dog has to be taken out for walks no matter what. But this activity is also an opportunity to socialize – to meet other dog owners – and that makes it easier for it to become habit forming. As a result, what we found is that dog owners are more likely to meet their current physical activity guidelines.”
Dogs are also terrific workout partners and are great at helping you stick to your fitness goals. While it may be tempting to postpone an early morning run, your canine personal trainer won’t take no for an answer. So, lace up your sneakers, leash up Fido, and get going.
Pets can even help some adults manage their chronic pain. Recent studies have shown that dogs – due to their remarkable sense of smell – can perform what often seem like miracles, such as detecting cancer, predicting seizures and warning their humans about low blood sugar.
So there are more than a few reasons why humans and pets have been keeping company for thousands of years.