How Pets Benefit Your Health On Many Levels

How Pets Benefit Your Health On Many Levels

When you think of adopting a dog or cat, you may think you are doing a good thing for the pet; however, what you may not realize is that having a pet is actually good for your health!

How Pets Benefit Your Health

When humans and pets interact, a physiological response occurs in both the human and the pet. For example, oxytocin, the “love hormone” that produces positive feelings, increases within minutes of the interaction.1 Cortisol, a key stress hormone, insulin, which helps regulate glucose, and heart rate are all decreased after the interaction.1 Research demonstrates that pets influence humans from a biological, psychological, and social standpoint that helps support better mental health, stress management, heart health, and other factors.1,2

A new study published in the prestigious medical journal JAMA found that having a pet is also good for the brain.3 In that study, the researchers concluded that pet ownership may be associated with slower cognitive decline among older adults who lived alone.

Exercise with Pets

Perhaps one of the reasons pets promote health is because they encourage physical activity, which benefits both mental and physical health.4 A 2019 study found that dog owners were four times more likely to meet the current physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week than non-dog owners.5

Another 2019 study involving women with an average age of 21 also found that dog owners had a higher frequency and duration of moderate physical activity compared to non-dog owners.6

And because physical activity with a dog often involves going outside, you get even more benefits. A 2023 study looking at brain function found that after a 15-minute walk, the people who walked outdoors had increased brain function compared to those who walked indoors.7  A 2023 analysis of 28 studies found that exercising outdoors is also better for mental health and heart function.8 That analysis also found that people who exercised outdoors tended to exercise more than people who exercised indoors.

Now that spring is in the air, it’s time to grab your dog and get outside. 

Don’t have a pet? Don’t worry. Interact with the pets of friends or family or consider volunteering at a local animal shelter or humane society to experience some of the benefits.

Wonder what else pets can help with? Read this. For more tips on nutrition, mindful wellness practices, and helping your family feel their best, follow us on Facebook @kalvits and Instagram at @kalvitamins

References

  1. Handlin L, Hydbring-Sandberg E, Nilsson A, et al. Short-term interaction between dogs and their owners: effects on oxytocin, cortisol, insulin, and heart rate—an exploratory study. Anthrozoos. 2011;24(3):301-315. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/175303711X13045914865385
  2. Gee NR, Rodriquez KE, Fine AH, Trammell JP. Dogs supporting human health and well-being: a biopsychosocial approach. Front Vet Sci. 2021;8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8042315/
  3. Li Y, Wang W, Zhu L, et al. Pet ownership, living alone, and cognitive decline among adults 50 years and older. JAMA. 2023;6(12). https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2813138?utm_source=silverchair&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=article_alert-jamanetworkopen&utm_term=mostread&utm_content=olf-widget_01122024&adv=000002595782
  4. Mahindru A, Patil P, Agrawal V. Role of physical activity on mental health and well-being: a review. Cureus. 2023;15(1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9902068/
  5. Westgarth C, Christley RM, Jewell C, et al. Dog owners are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people without a dog: an investigation of the association between dog ownership and physical activity levels in a UK community. Scientific Reports. 2019;9. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-41254-6
  6. Machova K, Dadova K, Chaloupkova H, Svobodova I. Does having a pet influence the physical activity of their young female owners? BMC Public Health. 2019;19. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7962-z
  7. Boere K, Lloyd K, Binsted G, Krigolson OE. Exercising is good for the brain but exercising outside is potentially better. Scientific Reports. 2023;13. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-26093-2
  8. Nguyen P, Astell-Burt T, Rhimi-Ardabili H, Feng X. Effect of nature prescriptions on cardiometabolic and mental health, and physical activity: a systemic review. The Lancet. 2023;7(4). https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(23)00025-6/fulltext
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