Pets and Exercise: A 10 out of 10 Relationship!

Pets and Exercise: A 10 out of 10 Relationship!

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.

Furry friends fall into that category, and it’s what we’re going to be looking at today.

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

Having pets to keep active.

“Pet therapy” is increasingly being put into practice for these and other pathologies. And there are hospitals where these hairy friends are more than welcome.

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.

Remember that you don’t need to walk for hours to lower your mortality rate with physical activity, and just 7000-8000 daily steps will make a massive difference, as we explain in this post.

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

Pets and children.

Reduces death rates from all causes

Recently, a study involving almost 4 million people sent a strong message: the probability of dying from any cause if you have a pet is reduced by 24%.

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.

The care commitment needed for your animal will force you to get up from your chair or sofa at least three times a day, unless you’re lucky enough to live in a big house where the dog has enough space.

Dog

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.

If your parents won’t let you get a dog, there’s always an alternative: watching cat videos on the internet immediately improves your mood (Myrick, 2015).

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.

Pet walking

And the scientific evidence says that you’ll live longer, and happier.

Now you have another excuse to ask your partner or family to get pets – to help you get active.

We’ll see you in the next post. A big hug to you and your pets!

Bibliography

  1. 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.
  2. Kramer, C. K., Mehmood, S., & Suen, R. S. (2019). Dog ownership and survival: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
  3. 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.
  4. Parslow, R. A., & Jorm, A. F. (2003). Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease: Another look. Medical Journal of Australia.
  5. 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.

Related Entries

  • 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.
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About Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera
Borja Bandera is a young doctor who focuses on nutrition, exercise and metabolism, he combines his professional activity with his vocational dissemination and research.
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