How Owning a Pet Can Improve Your Physical Health

Blood Hound

It is an inescapable fact that humans love domestic animals. So much so that it is estimated that around 65% of U.S. households have a pet. Dogs are generally the most popular choice, followed by cats, but horses, rabbits, birds, rodents, lizards and snakes are all relatively common purchases of people looking for a pet.

Owning a pet has long been considered an uplifting and joyful experience. Otherwise, why would people keep animals at all? However, it may surprise you to know that there are also proven physical health benefits of pet ownership too. So, let’s find out more.

Building stronger immune systems

Research published in the ‘Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology’ has shown that having a pet in your home can actually lower the risk of your child developing a related allergy by as much as 33% ¹. There is also evidence to suggest a reduced risk of developing the skin irritation known as eczema. The reason for this is because children who have pets tend to have stronger immune systems.

Healthy heart

Your pet may occupy a large space in your heart, but research has shown that pet ownership may be good for the health of your heart too. Studies undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH) have looked at the effect of pet ownership on the heart. The results of the studies showed that pet owners exhibited lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lower blood pressure, than those subjects who did not own pets ². In other words, reductions in the markers that indicate a person is at a high risk of suffering a heart attack.

Overall fitness

Fitness is an important part of our overall wellbeing. However, improved physical fitness applies primarily to dog owners – after all it is difficult to go for a jog with a cat or lizard! Responsible canine ownership almost always means plenty of long walks and fresh air. However, you can ramp up the exercise by jogging, running, hiking or cycling alongside your furry friend. This will get your lungs working, your blood pumping and boost the endorphins – the feel-good hormones – in your body, making you feel happier and healthier.

Horse-lovers and owners can also experience some fitness benefits thanks to the physical exertion required for mucking out stables and riding them.

Weight control

The physical activity that comes with the ownership of some pets (again, predominantly dogs and horses), combined with a healthy, balanced diet, can help with weight control. Weight loss has been shown to have a tremendously positive impact on our health. In fact, losing weight can drastically improve the symptoms of a number of chronic health conditions including arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type II diabetes. Improvements in these conditions are hugely beneficial for your overall physical health and wellbeing.

Reduced stress

We could all use a little less stress in our lives, right? Well pet ownership has been proven to lower stress levels. This is because spending time playing or petting your pet can increase the production of oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone. At the same time, it can also inhibit the production of cortisol, which is the hormone responsible for making us feel anxious or stressed. While you may think of stress as purely a mental condition, regularly high levels of stress can have a negative impact on our physical wellbeing, with symptoms including:

  • Accelerated heart rate

  • Chest pain

  • Grinding or clenching teeth

  • Headaches

  • Insomnia

  • Low energy levels

  • Nervous symptoms such as shaking and sweating

  • Upset stomach and related conditions such as nausea, constipation and diarrhea

Spending ten minutes a day stroking, playing or simply being with your pet can help to promote calmness, and reduce the physical symptoms of stress.

Pet ownership is extremely fulfilling. Now proven to be good for your physical health too, why wait any longer to add a furry, scaly or feathered friend to your family?