There are many reasons dogs are consider man’s (and woman’s) best friend — they love you unconditionally, they’re always happy to see you, and, of course, their sweet, sloppy puppy kisses. Even better, dog ownership can offer benefits that positively affect your mental and physical well-being. Here are six ways having a dog is good news for your health:
Dog owners walk an average of 22 minutes more per day than people who don’t have a dog. They also get higher quality exercise. Why? Because dog walking not only gets them outside and moving, but also walking faster and covering more ground. The regular routine of walking a dog also adds positive structure to our lives, which could explain why dog owners are more likely to stick with their fitness goals.
The therapeutic advantages of owning a dog are plentiful — there’s a reason why hospitals employ therapy dogs! Our basic, human need for touch can be fulfilled through our pets. Believe it or not, simply playing with a dog can increase serotonin and dopamine levels , two neurotransmitters that promote a sense of calmness and happiness. Interacting with an affectionate pup can be relaxing and a solution for loneliness, particularly when you’re stressed or anxious.
New Social Networks
Owning a dog also helps foster our friendships and provide social support. When we walk our dogs, we’re more likely to make friends with neighbors and other dog owners in parks and on the street. Not only that, dog owners can expand their social circles through pet-related connections and events, particularly since meeting like-minded new friends can sometimes prove difficult.
Infants who are exposed to dogs may be less likely to develop allergies and even asthma. This could be because the “dog dust” that dogs shed can alter the human gut’s microbiome, which can ultimately change the way our immune system responds. Because of this, people exposed to dogs at an early age may have milder reactions to allergens than those who lack exposure.
Aside from helping us form new relationships, dogs can also help their owners improve existing ones. For example, couples who own a dog tend to have happier relationships due to an increased ability to handle stress. They also interact with each other more, partaking in shared activities with their pet both inside and outside of the home.
A Healthy Heart
Dogs not only warm our hearts, they help keep them healthy! In fact, research shows that owning a dog can have a positive effect on cardiovascular health in several ways. The calming effect of dogs not only decreases blood pressure, but may also help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The stress relief that dogs provide allows your heart rate and blood pressure to return to normal levels easier, lessening the negative effects of stress on our bodies.
It’s true – the joy our pets bring can really change us for the better. Dogs keep us active, engaged in our communities, and help in building new relationships while fortifying old ones. At any age, owning a dog not only brings happiness, but inspires us to live healthier lives.
This article was originally published in Philly Voice.