Loyal, friendly and always happy to see us, pets can make for a faultless friend. But did you know they can make us physically, mentally and emotionally healthier? Just having the company of a pet makes us more active and less stressed.
The delight a pet can bring isn’t something new; in Australia we have an incredibly high level of pet ownership. Research shows almost two-thirds of Australian households have a pet today, and 90% of us have had a pet at some time.
Pets are also seen to promote optimism, with the same study revealing many people who believe that caring for another living being brought a sense of purpose to their lives and that their pets have a direct positive impact on their experiences of depression and anxiety.
Liam Beecroft, Health Coach for Remedy Healthcare, says owning a pet can be extremely beneficial for a number of health-related reasons.
“Owning a pet such as a dog can help to increase our own levels of physical activity,” Liam says. “For example; the tasks of feeding, grooming and taking your pet outside and playing with them helps to keep us active.
“But most importantly, the look of pure joy and excitement your dog gives you when it thinks it’s going for a walk is too difficult to resist! So they help keep us accountable for exercise –rain, hail or shine they want to go for a walk.”
Discover some benefits that pet ownership can have on your health and wellbeing.
Keeping fit and active
Research has showed that people who walked a dog five days a week lost an average of 6.5kg in a year.
It also helps older adults; those in their 70s and 80s who regularly walked dogs experienced lower body mass, and fewer limitations in what they could achieve at home, shows a separate study.
Dog owners are twice as likely to maintain their mobility as they get older and also more likely to walk faster than those without a dog.
People with a dog also have more varied hobbies – pet-free people watch an average of 14 hours more television a month than those with pooches; while dog-owners spend that time on outdoors activities such as cycling, going for walks, and gardening.
Reducing cardiovascular disease
Having a dog or a cat means you’re less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, such as stroke, heart attacks or high blood pressure, according to research.
Pet owners also have lower cholesterol and improved one-year survival rates after serious heart attacks.
Because these statistics relate to cats as well as dogs, it shows it’s not just the exercise that’s associated with walking a dog that helps boost your health, but that companionship and stress relief is important too.
Reducing doctor’s visits
A study has revealed that pet owners over the age of 65 visit the doctor 30 per cent less than people without pets.
Respondents who owned pets reported fewer doctor visits over the course of a year than people who did not own pets.
The study also showed that pets appeared to help their owners in times of stress. The accumulation of stressful life events was associated with increased doctor contacts during the study year for respondents without pets. This relationship did not emerge for pet owners.