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Want to Get Fit? Get a Pet

Fitday Editor

Do you have a pet or are you thinking of getting one? Getting a pet could be beneficial to your physical and emotional health. Having a pet at home is incentive to move more in general and can help relieve stress. According to a study published in 2011 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pet owners tend to be happier, more physically fit, less worrisome and lonely, have greater self-esteem and be more outgoing and conscientiousness than non-pet owners.

Pets Increase Physical Fitness

The possible higher level of physical fitness of pet owners may be due to increased leisure-time physical activity you spend with your pets. Another study published in 2011 in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that people who have dogs are more physically active overall, than those who do not have dogs. Researchers of this study used data from an annual health survey directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Community Health. Another study conducted in Australia and published in 2008 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that when participants who walked less than other participants got a dog they increased their walking by 30 more minutes per week. This finding indicates that getting a dog is encouragement to walk.

Dogs vs. Cats

Walking is a low-impact easily accessible exercise that allows you to stay active while keeping your dog happy. If you own an indoor animal, such as a cat, you may not get the same amount of physical activity as with a dog, but you can receive similar emotional benefits. The emotional health benefit of having a pet can be allotted to companionship as studies conducted in nursing homes found that long-term care residents who received animal-assisted therapy-spending time with a dog just three times a week was shown to reduce feelings of loneliness. The residents also showed less feelings of loneliness in comparison to residents who did not receive the therapy. Spending leisure-time physical activity can be emotionally beneficial, relieve stress and add movement and exercise to your day even if you play inside with your animal.

Dedicated Time

A good way to add physical activity to your day is to designate an amount of time, preferably 30 to 90 minutes per day, to spend with your animal. Designating this time means using it to for physical activity. If you have a dog, bring your dog to different parks and paths. Some areas have dog parks and swimming pools designated just for dogs. If you have a different animal that you cannot walk with, go to your local pet store and find toys that involve both you and your pet to be physically active. Make sure to check with your physician and your pet's veterinarian about how much and what type of physical activity is safe for you and your pet.


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Jamie Yacoub, M.P.H., R.D. is a clinical dietitian with a Master's of Public Health in Nutrition She obtained her Bachelor of Science in clinical nutrition from UC Davis after four years, during which time she participated in internships in several different nutrition environments including Kaiser Permanente and Women, Infants, & Children (W.I.C.). After graduating from UC Davis, she went on to study public health nutrition at Loma Linda University where she obtained her Master's of Public Health in Nutrition. Jamie completed the community nutrition portion of her dietetic internship as an intern for a Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition. She completed both the food service and clinical portions of her dietetic internship at a top 100 hospital in the nation, where she was hired as the only clinical dietitian shortly after. Jamie now works as an outpatient clinical dietitian and is an expert in Medical Nutrition Therapy (M.N.T.) using the Nutrition Care Process (N.C.P.) including past medical history and current laboratory values as a basis of nutrition assessment.

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