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Physical health benefits of dogs

Did you know that dog owners have fewer doctors’ appointments than people who don’t have pets? 

It’s true! Numbers don’t lie! Studies have also shown that pet owners:

  • Exercise more frequently
  • Are less likely to take sleep aid medication
  • Take fewer days off from work
  • Have better self-reported fitness levels

That all sounds like excellent news to me, but how specifically does my dog help me avoid the Dr? How do our dogs keep us healthier?

According to Phil Tedeschi, a clinical professor and Executive Director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, the answer involves two main components: pets prompt us to exercise, and pets decrease our stress levels. Both of which contribute to better overall mental health.

Most of us could use that extra push to get our daily steps up, dogs have a knack for motivating us to stay active. After all, even the laziest dog will require you to get off the sofa now and then. Walking and playing with your pet will not only strengthen your body, but it will also boost your energy and raise your self-esteem. All important considerations when it comes to protecting our mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health benefits of pet ownership don’t end there. WebMD shows that interacting with companion animals such as dogs can decrease our cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. Remarkably, simply petting our dogs has been scientifically proven to relieve anxiety and lower stress. Results of a study conducted at Washington State University suggest that all it takes is 10 minutes of stroking a dog to bring down your stress hormone levels. That’s incredible, right? 

Let’s be honest here, these days we can all use a little help relaxing. One study showed some especially interesting discoveries. Researchers compared the cortisol levels of dog owners in three unique situations: petting their own dog, petting an unfamiliar dog, and quietly reading a book without a dog present. Can you guess what scenario returned the most dramatic drop in cortisol? You’re right! The one where people were able to pet their own dog. So now you’re done reading this post, stop ignoring your dog and go pet them! Then come back and read another! 

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