Are you one of 70% of American households that have a pet? If so, your best buddy is more than just a companion. Pets offer many benefits to your well-being, too!
Learn more about how walks with the dog, snuggles with the cat and other activities can give your health a boost.
Increased physical activity
When it comes to movement, every little bit counts. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity a week to improve cardiovascular fitness, maintain or lose weight and ward off some diseases. That’s just 22 minutes a day for seven days or 30 minutes a day for five days.
But what type of activity counts as moderate? The Compendium of Physical Activities offers a comprehensive listing of activities that are ranked by METs, or metabolic equivalent. Any activity between 3-6 METs is considered moderate activity.
This is great news for pet owners. If you have a dog, taking them for a walk counts as 3.0 METs. Playing with your pet in the living room or the yard can also count anywhere from 2.8-5 METs. So when your pet gets exercise, you do, too!
Lower blood pressure
Pet ownership can make our hearts feel full. But having a furry (or scaly) friend can also help your heart thrive.
In one study, married couples with a cat or dog had lower heart rates and blood pressure levels than those who didn’t have pets. The same study also concluded that people with pets saw their heart rate and blood pressure drop faster after stress than those who did not.
Why is this? Part of the reason can be attributed to snuggles.
By petting or holding your animal friend, you are lowering the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body. This creates a ripple effect across your entire well-being, allowing your heart rate to lower, your mind to slow down and muscles to relax.
Decreased risk of loneliness and depression
Humans are social creatures and pet ownership helps fulfill our most basic desires to connect with others. There are a few reasons for this:
- Pet people tend to find other pet people, whether they are out for a walk with their furry friend or buying supplies at the store. Having a pet can be the ultimate conversation starter.
- It has been proven that companionship adds years to our lives. In fact, studies have shown that pet owners over the age of 65 see their doctor 30% less than their pet-less counterparts.
- Caring for a pet invokes feelings of being needed and wanted, which can reduce symptoms of depression. Plus, there is no better mood booster than being greeted by a wagging tail or purring cat.
The bottom line: Our pets are more than companions. They are also a key component to a healthier life for their owners, including increased physical activity, lower blood pressure and improved mental health.