Six Ways Dogs Can Improve Your Physical And Mental Health
Perhaps one of the primary reasons you own a dog is you have noticed that they often make you feel calm; sometimes even make your day. Several studies have shown that your tail wagging friend can be perfect for your mental and physical health. Gary Christenson, a chief medical officer at the University of Minnesota, says that “the companionship and bond created between an individual and their dog makes a significant difference in physical and mental health. Below is a list of exactly how dogs can improve your health.
1. Dogs improve mental health by reducing your stress, depression, and anxiety.
Petting a dog offers comfort and develops a connection that improves your mood by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Just the presence of your dog can make your body release oxytocin, a powerful stress relieving neurochemical. It results in a decrease in cortisol levels, the stress hormone.
A study done by Buffalo University, New York shows that dog owners react less to stress and recover from it more quickly. Also, with a dog, you are less likely to suffer depression because when you play with it, your dopamine and serotonin levels increase, which calms and relaxes you.
Dogs give psychological support to their owners. When anxious or depressed, your dog can take the place of negative thoughts and be something calming to focus on. The attention, acceptance, and unconditional love they offer you are just so soothing it improves your mood, and thus your mental health.
2. Dogs help boost your physical fitness.
Your dog will get you outside, for a walk, hike or a run. This is an engaging outdoor activity that will help burn some calories; strengthen your bones and muscles. In a University of Missouri study led by Rebecca Johnson, a co-author of the book Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound, the results showed that dog walkers were more likely to meet their fitness exercise requirements. The results further indicated that the small physical activities that dog owners regularly do (such as tossing a Frisbee and dog walking and running) lead to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels.
Running with your dog is an exceptionally healthy everyday exercise. However, it is important to note that not all types of dogs are good runners. If you like running, choose a dog that can live up to the task. For instance, healthy Labradors are excellent running companions. Running at more than 35 miles/per hour for short distances, they can give you a real challenge.
3. A dog may reduce cardiovascular risks.
As noted earlier, having a dog increases the chances of you being physically fit which is good for your physical health. The physical activities you do with your dog like playing with it, hiking, walking and running lower blood pressure, stress, cholesterol, and triglycerides. This reduces your risk for cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, stroke, and coronary diseases.
4. Your dog may improve your relationships and make you more sociable.
Humans are social beings and having healthy social relationships is good for both your physical and mental health. Your dog may create a lot of social interaction opportunities for you. For instance, you may have off-chance chats (when, say, you are looking for your dog in the park), a volunteer with a rescue organization, or attend a pet show.
There is evidence pointing to the fact that dog owners feel more connected in personal relationships than individuals without any pets. Such dog owners are more outgoing and more confident and ready to take up leadership roles.
5. A dog can improve your mental health by boosting your self-esteem.
While you may not notice it, the fact that your dog accepts you and loves unconditionally can go along with developing your confidence, and self-esteem. They don’t care whether or not you like some things about them, they are ever welcoming with a lot of enthusiasm, their tails wagging and ears perking up, loving you no matter what.
Allen McConnell, Ph.D., a Miami University psychology professor says that “your self-esteem can improve because of the unconditional love your dog offers you.” This, he says, is good for your mental health as your confidence is elevated and you get feelings of meaningful existence and belonging.
6. A dog can lessen some allergies.
This is especially true for small children. In one study published in the Clinical and Experimental Allergy, the report showed that children that grow up with such pets as dogs are less likely to develop some allergic diseases, asthma, eczema, hay fever, among other conditions. Among other psychological effects, allergies may make an individual become lethargic, depressed and also suffer from insomnia.
Dogs change our lives in significant ways, and now you’ve learned about how they help you live a healthier and happier life. Be sure to remember this the next time your pup jumps up on you and gives you some sloppy kisses!
Kevin O’Donnell is a dog enthusiast and dog rescue volunteer. As the webmaster at TheBarkBuzz.com he helps spread valuable information and advice about dog training, nutrition and health. He loves playing with his best friend, Buddy (a Japanese Chin/Papillon mix).