Can Dogs Improve Your Health and Fitness?March 12, 2014
Man’s best friend just might be an even better friend than you realize. As society becomes less and less active because of advances in technology, many of us are spending an increasing amount of time at home on the couch or at the computer. Why go outside when you have everything you need at your fingertips?
Unfortunately, these habits are leading to increasing health problems, with an increasing lack of exercise one of the main factors. Finding the motivation to get outside and exercise can be tough, and excuses are always at our fingertips.
- Joining a gym is too expensive.
- The weather’s not great.
- I’ll go tomorrow.
Adding a dog to your life can not only force you to drop the excuses, it can be a huge step in the right direction as you look to improve your fitness. A recent study by a major U.S. university found that of the dog owners who take their pets on regular walks, 60 percent were meeting the government standards for regular moderate to vigorous exercise. Almost 50 percent of people who walk their dogs regularly are getting at least 30 minutes or regular exercise a day, 5-7 days a week.
Take the dogs out of the picture, and the number of people getting that much exercise drops by 60 percent. Even more encouraging, the majority of dog walkers weren’t using the time with Fido as a replacement for exercise and usually added other exercise time in addition to the walks.
Not only does dog ownership often help improve your physical fitness, it also can have a great effect on your emotional well-being. Among the positive effects dog ownership can have:
Reduced anxiety – It’s well documented that having a dog at our side can greatly reduce our anxiety and relax us.
Companionship – Dogs are a great companion for those of us who are lonely, and many people, especially the elderly, enjoy a better quality of life with a dog as a pet.
Rehabilitation – Therapy dogs are used in many forms of rehabilitation to help those of us who have been injured or suffered an illness and need help getting by or getting back to normal.
Reduced allergies – Surprisingly, studies have regularly shown that those who grew up with a dog in their house are far less likely to develop allergies, or even asthma, later in life.
ADHD treatment – Not only can a dog help a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder burn off extra energy, it also can help them learn to work on a schedule when the pet needs to be walked, fed, etc.
Would you be surprised to hear that dog ownership can also improve your social life? Think about that walk you take by yourself down to the local park. Doesn’t take long with your head down and your headphones in, does it? Now, add your dog to the mix, and suddenly nobody is a stranger. Every person you pass needs to be inspected, which leads to introductions between you and neighbors you might never have met. This is great for singles, of course.
Finally, dogs can teach us about unconditional love, which we all need in our lives. No matter how bad of a day you’re having, your pet will be by your side ready to give affection.