If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of feeling like everything you love is bad for your health, then you’re not alone. The list of unhealthy foods and activities may keep getting longer, but, for all of you dog parents out there, I have some great news: bonding with your dog is great for your health, and it can even help you live longer!
It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that there are health benefits associated with dog ownership, but the full extent of the impact your dog can have on your health may amaze you. More and more scientific research supports what dog parents have known all along — our dogs keep us healthy.
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation is a non-profit organization that focuses on conducting research and spreading the word about the positive impact of the human-animal bond.
They recently partnered with the Cohen Research Group to conduct a survey that found that 97% of doctors believe that there are health benefits associated with owning a dog, and 75% believe that they have seen one or more patients’ overall health improve as a result of pet ownership. In fact, of the doctors surveyed, 60% have recommended getting a pet to a patient, 43% recommended the pet to improve overall health, and 17% made the recommendation for a specific condition.
How Your Dog Improves Your Health
Bonding with your dog can go a long way towards avoiding or lessening the effects of the most deadly chronic diseases in the US – namely, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and related conditions such as diabetes. That’s a pretty impressive claim! Here are some specific ways that your dog can improve your health.
- Dogs boost your immune system. Dogs encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise — all of which contribute to a stronger immune system. In fact, on average, pet parents visit the doctor about half as often as people without pets. They also miss less work. This has the added effect of bringing some pretty significant financial benefits as well. According to HABRI, pet owners in the United States save a whopping 11.7 billion dollars on healthcare costs!
- Dog parents get more exercise. I’m not saying that people without dogs never exercise, but those of us with dogs have a live-in walk reminder lying at our feet! Twenty-three percent of dog owners walk their dogs at least 5 times per week. The frequency of obesity among these regular dog walkers is 5% lower than it is for non pet owners.
- Dogs are good for your heart. All of that playtime and walking lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It can also keep your blood pressure and cholesterol down.
3 Easy Ways to Get Healthy With Your Dog
Adopting a dog isn’t an instant ticket to better health, but if you spend some time doing the things your dog loves best, you’re well on your way!
- Take a walk. As tempting as it may be to stay in bed for an extra hour in the morning or to park yourself in your favorite chair after a long day at work, don’t give in! Even a quick walk around the block is enough to improve your health (and your dog’s) as long as you do it regularly.
- Play together. If your health allows, indulge Fido’s need to play with a lively game of keep away or tug-o-war. Or just toss his favorite ball or frisbee across the yard and see who can get there first!
- Snuggle. The health benefits of dog ownership don’t end with playtime and exercise. Once you’re done moving, take some time out to enjoy a good cuddle. Just the simple act of touching your furry best friend has a calming effect that can help to lower stress and improve heart health.
For those of us looking to improve our general health, the best medicine very well may have four legs and a wagging tail. Go ahead and spend some quality time with your canine friend. You’ll both be happier and healthier for it!
This post is adapted from part of our new ebook. Grab your free copy here.