Did you know that 60.2% of US households own dogs in the United States? That’s over 75 million households. Besides getting a faithful companion out of the deal, these furry friends also provide many health benefits that can be truly life changing for your fitness level and overall wellness.
The Health Benefits of Owning a Dog
Most dogs need to do their business outside multiple times per day, so you are up and moving more often than non-pet owners. Frequent daily exercise lowers your blood pressure and reduces your chances of suffering from heart disease. WebMD also reports that if you have heart issues, dog owners even end up living longer than those without pets. The average dog owner spends 300 minutes per week walking, compared to a non-pet owner's 168 minutes.
Your physical health isn't the only thing that gets better with a canine companion. You also get a boost to your mental well-being. They're great at lowering your stress levels, and their friendly attitudes have a soothing effect overall. People suffering from anxiety find it helpful to have a cuddly dog on hand that's happy to provide a paw to assist. You can find many dogs operating as emotional support animals, and they pick up on their owner's distress early on.
If your dog is a more active breed, you could find yourself taking your friend all over the place, from the park to hiking trails. Most canines love the outdoors and sniffing everything they can get their nose near, so you'll get to see nature up close and personal.
On top of that, if you take your dog on these field trips to the forest, you actually lower your tendency to brood on negative feelings. A research study compared the neurological activity of people who walked through urban environments versus those who spent time near nature for a set period of the day. The scientists discovered that the part of the brain that is most active when you dwell on negative things calms down when you spend time among the trees. Disrupting this thought pattern is particularly beneficial for people who are using cognitive behavioral therapy as treatment for mental illnesses, as it complements activities that you're already doing.
How Owning a Dog Helps You Build Healthy Habits
Your dog can't fend for itself. It depends on you to feed it, wash it, take it for walks and give it plenty of attention. You get a built-in motivation to get out of bed in the morning for a walk, especially since your furry alarm clock can jump up on your bed and lick you until you wake up.
The dog ownership routine allows you to build healthy habits and it also gives you the opportunity to make social connections. Dog parks are filled with people you share a common interest with, and there are plenty of people who love to give dogs a friendly pet during walks. All of these are opportunities to have new fulfilling friendships and other emotional connections.
Your doctor might not write down a puppy prescription (we wish!), but when you become a dog owner, you get plenty of health benefits. While the biggest improvements are related to your fitness level and heart health, you'll also find that your furry friend will enrich your life in many other ways.
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