Pets provide more than just love and cuddles, they can actually make you physically and mentally healthier. There are a number of proven health benefits for people with pets, including physical, mental, and emotional improvements. From enhancing your social skills and helping you relax through to increasing your fitness, pet ownership can be even more important than gym membership when it comes to overall health. Whether you're a dog person, a cat person, or a turtle person - having a pet in your life really can help to keep the doctor away.
Pet ownership provides a range of physical health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and increased physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted heart-related studies on people with pets, with findings showing that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduced triglyceride levels - all of which can minimise the risk of heart attack. While some of these benefits are related to increased physical activity, pets are also known to reduce and control stress levels in people.
Pet owners often do more physical activity than people without pets, especially when there's a dog involved. Not only are dogs great motivators and personal trainers, they also make you feel bad when you don't take them for a walk. While guilt-based motivation might not seem like the ideal way to meet your fitness goals, make no mistake, it works. According to research conducted by the National Institute of Health, dog owners responsible for walking their pets are less likely to be obese than dog owners who don't walk their pups or those without dogs.
One little known benefit of pet ownership is how animals can help to strengthen the immune system. Especially during infancy, access to dogs and other pets can help reduce the risk of numerous allergies and improve overall immune system health. According to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, having a pet in your home can lower a child's likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent. Next time a dog is slobbering all over you, remember, it's probably good for you.
Pet ownership has also been associated with numerous psychological benefits, including higher self-esteem, better social skills, and lower rates of depression. Pets combat loneliness through consistent and loyal companionship, bringing joy and happiness which can boost mood and combat depression from the inside-out. This effect is particularly pronounced among the sick and elderly, with Animal-assisted Therapy (AAT) and Pet-facilitated Therapy (PFT) often used by hospitals and nursing homes.
The social benefits of pet ownership are another benefit that should not be underestimated, with pets providing a great way to improve your social skills and meet other pet owners. While you probably shouldn't get a dog just to improve your pick-up skills, pets do provide people with a great way to connect and socialise with those around them. Studies have also shown that pet owners are more popular and empathetic than those without pets, with people who own pets also less likely to get bored and more likely to have a positive outlook on life.
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