Against a widespread misconception claiming that having a dog is only a duty, current research exposes a striking and frequently unnoticed reality—owning a dog opens the door to a livelier and more satisfying way of life. Going beyond the expected responsibilities, having a furry friend has been associated with a noteworthy uptick in physical activity, disrupting preconceived ideas about the burdens of caring for a pet. This disclosure transforms how we perceive the connection between humans and dogs, making a convincing argument for the far-reaching advantages that go well beyond simple companionship.
Walking your dog is an effective way to get more exercise. It provides cardiovascular benefits such as improved blood pressure and lower cholesterol, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and strengthens your muscles, bones, and joints. Physical activity with your dog also releases oxytocin, the "love hormone" that helps form social attachments and makes you feel happier.
According to one study, people who own dogs are more than 50 percent more likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity per week. This is because walking your dog allows you to break up periods of sedentary behavior and spend some time outdoors.
In a longitudinal study, researchers used accelerometers to monitor adolescents' physical activity. They found that teens who owned dogs were almost four times more likely to achieve daily physical activity guidelines than those who did not own dogs. This was because dog owners were more likely to walk regularly, with the average teen spending nearly 300 minutes walking with their dog weekly.
These results were comparable to those of other studies using similar methods. It is important to note that the resulting difference in walking time between dog owners and non-dog owners is not very large; however, given the low level of physical activity in many countries, even small effects could significantly impact health outcomes. In addition, it was found that the inverse association between sex and time spent on dog walking is not present for females. The sex-specific effect in males may be due to less frequent walks with dogs than in females.
Stress Reduction and Mood Improvement
Having a dog around is like having your stress-buster. Spending time with your furry friend triggers the release of the "love hormone" in both you and your dog. This hormone, oxytocin, is like a natural mood booster, helping you feel more relaxed and less stressed.
Simply petting or playing with your dog can bring a sense of calm by lowering cortisol levels—the main stress hormone. Activities like walking or grooming your dog create a therapeutic routine that helps clear your mind.
But it's not just about hormones. The special bond you share with your dog goes a long way in providing emotional support. Dogs have a sixth sense of human emotions, offering a comforting presence, especially during tough times. This connection helps you cope with stress and find comfort in your furry friend.
So, having a dog isn't just about having a pet; it's like having a natural remedy for stress. The joy and companionship they bring into your life can significantly lift your spirits and brighten your overall mood.
Dogs are a great socialization tool, whether jogging with you or just walking the neighborhood for a brisk walk. People who own dogs spend more time outdoors than their nondog-owning neighbors. This increased outdoor activity can create a greater sense of community and well-being.
Researchers have also found that owning a dog can help with physical health. One study showed that those who have a dog are 50 percent more likely to meet the recommended levels of weekly physical activity.
It's recommended that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. It's been shown that people who own dogs are more active than those who don't, including dog owners with children. This may be because dog ownership encourages family members to participate in physical activities together.
This is especially true when the dog is being walked. The extra movement will burn calories and improve cardiovascular health. Those who walk their dogs regularly have lower blood pressure, better control of their weight, and lower risk of heart disease.
A study published in April 2015 by Scientific Reports showed that dog owners are more active than those who do not own pets, including those with kids. The scientists recruited participants from 385 households in a neighborhood near Liverpool, and they asked everyone in the household to complete questionnaires and wear activity monitors for a week to determine their activity level. In addition to assessing the activity level, they also asked whether or not the participants had a dog.
Lower Blood Pressure
If you have a dog, you need to take it for regular walks. Walking is a moderate-intensity activity that can help adults achieve the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, relieve stress, improve mental and heart health, and boost energy and overall happiness and well-being.
People who own dogs spend 19 fewer minutes each day on objectively measured sedentary behavior (SB) than people without pets, according to a 2019 study by Kardiozive Brno 2030. The study found that dogs encouraged their owners to get more exercise. However, the researchers say this is a small effect and that further investigation is needed. They believe that the reason why some participants remained sedentary was that they were worried about their pet's safety on the street or that they disliked walking.
Those who own a dog are likelier to report a regular physical activity pattern, a balanced diet, and normal blood sugar levels than those without a pet. They also have lower blood pressure and less stress than those without a dog, and their heart rate responds more slowly to stress.
In addition, the bond between a person and their dog can reduce loneliness, which is also associated with heart disease. A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Aging found that older adults with pets had lower heart rates and blood pressure in response to a stressful situation and a more rapid return to a normal level when they were removed from the stressful environment.
Other studies have shown that owning a dog or cat can make you feel happier and calmer. This is largely because these animals are natural stress-fighters and can provide companionship and affection. Even simply petting a pet can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.
The Bottom Line
Regular exercise is good for your heart and many other health benefits. However, it's easy to let daily routines slip by. Dog ownership has the potential to directly encourage people to exercise and increase their levels of healthy living, particularly older individuals who often struggle with maintaining an active lifestyle.
It has been shown that in various studies, dog owners are more likely to achieve recommended physical activity levels. For example, it has been found that walking with a dog is significantly associated with an increase in the number of minutes spent on weekly moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA). Furthermore, in one study, children from pet-owning households were found to be more active than those from non-pet-owning households.
Getting a dog is a big commitment, and it takes time to train them. It is important to remember only to use positive reinforcement and to take it slow and steady. Too much stress can make training sessions difficult for the dog and the owner. If the dog gets too upset or frustrated, it will stop trying and not learn. If you get discouraged, don't give up - take it a little easier for a while and try again later.
While a daily walk around the block is an excellent starting point, it is essential to add variety. If you live near a park or trails, hiking with your dog is a great way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Other options include taking your dog swimming, skating, and even cycling. Indoor activities such as hide-and-seek and indoor games of fetch can also provide great exercise for you and your dog.