Today is a different kind of post. I’m going to be looking at the potential benefits of have an animal companions: pets and exercise.
When we think about looking after our health, we think about diet, exercise and supplements. But there are other factors that we sometimes forget about that can have an important therapeutic effect.
Benefits of having a pet
There are many benefits of having a pet to keep active and stay healthy, and they are backed by scientific evidence.
Some of them include:
Improving mental health
Mental illness continues to grow at a rapid pace.
In recent decades, in parallel with pharmacotherapy, ”complementary” measures are being studied that will undoubtedly improve patients’ quality of life.
Having a pet improves feelings of security and self-efficacy and lowers stress and anxiety levels (Brooks et al., 2016).
Having pets to keep active.
More physical activity
Pet owners do 30 minutes of additional exercise daily compared to those without pets (Parslow & Jorm, 2003).
Having to take your dog out for a walk positively influences breaking sedentary habits and helps you reach your daily physical activity goals.
Two birds with one stone.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Children with this pathology, sometimes very difficult to manage in the family environment, improve their social skills and behaviour in the presence of a pet (Schuck et al., 2015).
Pets and children.
Reduces death rates from all causes
But the analysis goes further: if you have already had a cardiovascular problem such as a heart attack or stroke, the benefit extends to a 31% lower chance of dying (Kramer et al., 2019).
While interfering factors such as socioeconomic level were not controlled in the study, the results nonetheless point to some surprising conclusions that have never been studied on such a large scale before.
What pet to get to keep active?
Obviously, it’s not the same having a pet iguana as it is having a dog, or a gerbil and horse.
Unless you’re Frank Cuesta and live surrounded by exotic creatures, the pet that will bring the most benefit to your life is a dog.
Yes, I know that your dream is to have a Vietnamese pig, but I doubt very much that this adorable piglet will increase your exercise as much as a canine.
Sometimes, this is exactly what we need: an obligation that’s incompatible with our excuses.
With a dog, you get the rest of the benefits mentioned in the previous section: A dog (although not all breeds are equally), needs activity. So do you.
Exercises to do with your pet
The catalogue of “things to do” with your dog or pet goes further than taking it to the corner, a dog’s public toilet.
The more sporty among you have multiple options to train with your canines, so don’t be lazy and choose one of the following options:
Don’t just walk with your dog
- A good 30 minute run before going to work: You only need a running lead and open space.
- Throw and catch: A classic they go crazy for. You can try with a frisbee for a bit more excitement.
- Hiking routes: Animals love nature, and you know that sun, nature and exercise are a winning combination.
- Yoga together: Did you know that there’s a type of yoga designed especially to do with dogs, called Doga? Something to investigate.
- Sprint sets with your dog: Think you can beat it over short distances?
Pet, obligation or motivation?
A good approach to improve your relationship with your pet is to see it, not as a tedious obligation, but as the source of perks and benefits that we’ve analysed in this post.
If you have a pet, in many senses, you have a treasure.
And the scientific evidence says that you’ll live longer, and happier.
We’ll see you in the next post. A big hug to you and your pets!
- Brooks, H., Rushton, K., Walker, S., Lovell, K., & Rogers, A. (2016). Ontological security and connectivity provided by pets: A study in the self-management of the everyday lives of people diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition. In BMC Psychiatry.
- Kramer, C. K., Mehmood, S., & Suen, R. S. (2019). Dog ownership and survival: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
- Myrick, J. G. (2015). Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect? Computers in Human Behavior.
- Parslow, R. A., & Jorm, A. F. (2003). Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease: Another look. Medical Journal of Australia.
- Schuck, S. E. B., Emmerson, N. A., Fine, A. H., & Lakes, K. D. (2015). Canine-Assisted Therapy for Children With ADHD: Preliminary Findings From The Positive Assertive Cooperative Kids Study. Journal of Attention Disorders.
- After reading this post about having pets and being active, you probably want to know why people don’t exercise; we answer that question here.
- If you don’t already know, click here to find out the benefits of exercise for the heart.