Pet Owners Live Healthier & Happier Lives
Originally published in Huffington Post
By Shane Power, President of Watertree Health, and Lisa Chau, Communications Manager of Watertree Health…
Fitbit Blaze, Under Armour HealthBox, Gymwatch Sensor, iFit NordicTrack Escape, Emfit QS Sleep Monitor… These are some of the health and fitness gadgets you’ll want this year. Technology is amazing, exciting and cool. But it won’t put a smile on your face the way a cat or dog might. Sometimes, there’s nothing better for your physical health than a pet.
According to WebMD, research has shown that animals can positively impact mood and help with stress. Pets provide companionship without the emotional complications human interactions typically bring. Plus, the physical contact of petting a cat or dog can be incredibly soothing. Cleveland Clinic notes that certain illnesses such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers or heart disease can get worse with stress.
One study found that dog owners had an 11% lower risk of experiencing a heart attack and were 33% less likely to die from a heart attack compared to non dog owners. In another study, married couples with pets had lower blood pressure and heart rates.
Increased exercise may be an extra contributor to the improved health of dog owners. An NIH investigation revealed that adults who regularly walked their dogs were less likely to be obese because of higher rates of physical activity. A second NIH study found that older adults who regularly walked their dogs had more mobility at home, walked faster and for longer durations.
Pets can also be the first step in combatting loneliness. As we reported previously, recent suicide rates have skyrocketed in part because of social isolation. A dog or cat can be a constant companion, and can make a meaningful difference. Eventually, pet owners may connect with other animal lovers during daily walks or casual conversation. Pets provide a safe topic for discussion as well as regular opportunities for socialization.
In addition, pet owners may find new purpose in providing a healthy household for their dog or cat. Daily responsibilities associated with animal care refocuses energies and reminds owners of their capabilities, value and worth. They benefit physically and mentally – pet owners are motivated to exercise more and live healthier.
In Psychology Today, Dr. Azadeh Aalai wrote,
Dog owners exhibit greater benefits than non-owners on dimensions as far ranging as self-esteem, physical fitness, sociability, happiness, and overall health (McConnell et al., 2011). Moreover, dog ownership has also been implicated in helping to alleviate symptoms of depression among terminally ill patients, the elderly, and veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, many innovative therapies today targeting our returning veterans specifically integrate canine therapy, with some resources referring to the presence of dogs as “life-savers” for these veterans (e.g. Colin, 2012).
The mental and physical benefits of owning a cat or dog can be tremendous – increasing happiness and healthiness. Can your Fuelband do that?
Co-authored with Shane Power, President of Watertree Health, where Lisa works in communication and business development. Both love dogs and cats.
I wish to go to Hawaii
I wish to go on a Caribbean cruise
I wish to go to Kauai, HI
I wish to go to the Florida Keys
I wish to stay in a treehouse in Maine
Help Stop Animal Cruelty
Today, there are millions of animals suffering from cruelty and homelessness nationwide. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®), three key issues affecting animal welfare include dog-fighting rings, puppy mills, and animal hoarding. As a result of rescuing these animals, owners surrendering their pets, and other factors, 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters across America each year. Through support of animal welfare organizations like the ASPCA, we can help change millions of lives. For Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month this April, let’s discuss three ways you can help make a difference right in your community.
Volunteer at an Animal Shelter:
For example, by dedicating just a few hours a week to walking dogs at your local shelter, you’ll help better prepare these dogs for adoption. Interacting with them can help develop their social skills, which builds trust and character. Many animal shelters have foster programs that grant permission to take home furry friends with the hope of ultimately finding them a loving home
Report Animal Cruelty:
Speaking up can be a matter of life or death for animals living in horrendous conditions or with abusive owners. To ensure your safety, never approach an animal you believe may be suffering from mistreatment or enter someone’s property without permission. What you can do is write a concise report, take pictures for evidence, and get in contact with your local authorities. Keep in mind that submitting an anonymous report is an option, but those with a witness are more likely to be pursued. For more information, visit www.aspca.org.
Adopt a Shelter Animal:
Adopting can help bring immense joy into the life of a rescue animal and their new owner! It has been scientifically proven that having pets can help drastically improve your health. For example, dog owners are two times more active than non-dog owners. They can also potentially help with self-esteem, loneliness, stress, and more. Always remember, adopt don’t shop!
Let’s help give the victims of animal cruelty a deserving second chance. By volunteering at an animal shelter, reporting animal cruelty, and adopting, you can help improve the lives of animals.