Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Having a Dog

5 mins read

Having a dog makes you healthier and happier. Dogs instantly improve their owner’s quality of life, both mentally and physically. Let’s be honest, how many of us would get off the couch and go for a walk if we didn’t have a furry friend to get us out of the house once in a while? Now, we’re not saying that you and your companion should spend your free time running, hiking along forest paths, up steep mountains. It can be just an ordinary, quiet walk.

Dogs Keep Your Heart Healthy.

Having a dog makes your heart feel good, but this is not just a throwaway line. Dr. Greg Fricchione, director of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, says that dog owners have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and fewer heart attacks than non-dog owners, as well as an overall improvement in existing heart conditions. This is due to the fact that dog owners get more exercise with their canine companions and that dogs reduce the owner’s stress levels.

Dogs Lower Their Owners’ Blood Pressure and Stress Levels.

When you come home after a long and tired day, the happiness you feel when you see your dog waiting for you with its tail wagging back and forth takes away all your tiredness. This is just one of many examples of how dogs can lower your stress levels.

According to Dr. Greg Fricchione, director of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine: “In many cases, I think the emotional benefits of dog ownership are experienced quite quickly, which may be related to the effects of the dog’s almost immediate unconditional acceptance of us. This leads to relaxation, which is associated with a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen consumption.”

It may be surprising to learn that this benefit is felt not only by owners, but also by our dogs! “It is striking and surprising that when an owner and dog make eye contact, oxytocin levels rise in both owner and dog at the same time,” says Fricchione.

Oxytocin is also called the loyalty hormone, the love hormone, the emotion hormone, the cuddle hormone. It has been shown in animal and human studies to affect mood by reducing anxiety, depressive symptoms and alleviating stress responses.

Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Having a Dog 1

Dogs Help Fight Depression and Loneliness.

One of the greatest benefits dogs provide to their owners is their companionship and friendship. Anyone can benefit from a dog’s companionship, but it is especially effective for people who are prone to depression due to the possibility of being alone for long periods of time, such as the sick and elderly.

Dogs Can Help You Lose Weight.

Perhaps the most measurable health benefit of dog ownership is weight loss. In the early 2000s, a team of researchers from the Institute of Health at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the US conducted a study in which overweight subjects, owners and their dogs, both experienced significant weight loss by exercising together. This also strengthened their bond because everyone needs a good training partner.

Dogs can benefit older people physically and mentally

For our aging relatives, our parents, it’s important that we find ways to help them live their lives to the fullest. Research shows that adopting a dog can be one way to help with this. Dr. Greg Fricchione says the following: “Dog ownership can bring many benefits to seniors, including cognitive development, walking, much-needed exercise and the sociability of meeting other dog owners. Many seniors say that having their dog in their room at night helps them fall asleep more easily. But it’s important to remember that the stress and effort that comes with taking responsibility for the life and health of a living being is also worth it. It is worth it.”

 

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