The Health Benefits of Pets
Cute, cuddly, and… good for your health? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having a pet is linked to several health benefits including decreased blood pressure, decreased feelings of loneliness and anxiety, and increased physical activity and social opportunities.
Lower blood pressure
Eating healthy and staying active is important to maintain heart health, but owning a pet can also help. According to a study by the National Institute of Health that analyzed dog and cat owners, pet owners experienced smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure during periods of stress, and increases returned to normal faster.
Well, maybe not if your cat and dog love to play tag all day in the house, but overall, pets are known to reduce stress. Cortisol is a hormone activated by stress, and studies have found that being around animals can decrease cortisol levels.
Pets are really good at making you smile—even if you’re feeling down. But even for those affected by depression, having a pet can result in mood-lifting benefits. The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes animal-assisted therapy as a treatment for depression and other mood disorders. As trusted companions with unconditional love for their owners, pets can help those with depression feel less isolated, and playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine—nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties.
More physical activity
Owning a pet—especially a dog—requires a little energy. Dogs need exercise and require their owners to get moving. Taking the dog outside, playing fetch, and taking a dog for a walk all help to benefit the physical activity of the dog owner (and the dog). In fact, dog owners who walk their dog for just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can get closer to reaching the Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation of at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.
More social interactions
Having a dog means you are going outside, which is good for your physical health but also good for your social health. Interacting and engaging with people in your neighborhood regularly while walking your dog creates a stronger feeling of social connectedness, which is important to your overall health. This can be especially helpful for people who are not that socially inclined or who have limited social interactions.
Interested in adopting a pet? View the Mass.gov approved rescue shelters here.
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