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5 Health Benefits of Being a Pet Owner

There might be more reasons than you think to adopt a new furry friend.

Trying to decide whether or not to own a pet? Pros and cons exist when purchasing furry friends, but you might be surprised to find out about some surprising health benefits of being a pet owner.

1. Increased Physical Activity

Having trouble staying physically active? A new pet might be just what you need. A 2015 review published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association says several studies show owning a dog boosts physical activity, because dog owners walk almost 20 minutes more weekly than non-dog owners. This makes sense, as many people who own dogs walk them (at least short distances to go to the bathroom) often. Being more physical active lowers your risk for chronic diseases and aids in healthy weight management.

2. Better Heart Health

Having a pet can help you improve your heart health, due to increased physical activity and lower heart disease risk factors. A 2014 study published in Current Gerontology and Geriatric Research found that pets help reduce resting blood pressure, and high blood pressure due to stress in older adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that pets help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and even triglyceride levels. And a 2015 review in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association says pet ownership may reduce the risk of death in patients with implantable defibrillators.

3. A Happier Mood

Owning pets may improve your mood, lowering your risk for social isolation and depression. A 2012 review published in Frontiers in Psychology says studies show human interaction with animals benefits social behavior, social attention, interpersonal interaction, mood, anxiety, fear, stress, and mental health (in addition to physical health improvements in heart rate, blood pressure, and other heart-disease risk factors). The 2015 review in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association says being around pets helps improve depression and agitation in nursing home residents. And, Harvard Health Publications says having a pet can increase oxytocin, a “feel good” chemical in your body.

4. Improvements in Pain Management

Being around animals might aid in pain management, says a 2012 study published in Pain Medicine. Researchers say significant improvements in pain relief, mood, and emotional distress happened after dog therapy visits in chronic pain patients attending outpatient pain management clinics. So if chronic pain is causing distress in your life, a pet might be just what you need to get you through this difficult time.

5. Increased Social Interactions

The social health benefits of having a pet may seem obvious, as pets reduce feelings of loneliness in people who are socially isolated. Not only do pets themselves offer companionship, but having pets provides opportunities to boost social interaction with other people (while out for walks or at dog parks, dog training classes, or doggie day care centers, for example).

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