Buy a Dog or a Cat and Enjoy Longer, Healthier Years Together With the New Year fast approaching, we are bombarded with advertisements for gyms memberships and treadmills to aid our New Year’s resolution to be “healthier.” Instead of buying weights that will, inevitably, collect dust in a corner, why not own a pet? More than half of all U.S. households have a companion animal. Pets are more common in households with children, yet there are more pets than children in American today. There are more than 51 million dogs, 56 million cats, 45 million birds, 75 million small mammals and reptiles, and uncounted millions of aquarium fish.
It is important to acknowledge that these populations of pets benefit and impact our physical, social, and psychological health, as humans. I know from personal experiences that the animals in my life are therapeutic assets and enrich my life.
Most scientific studies focused on the benefits of pet ownership show that the attachment between people and their pets seem to have important physiological and psychological effects. In 1992, one study reported lower levels of accepted risk factors of heart disease (blood pressure, plasma triglycerides and cholesterol levels) in pet owners than in non-pet owners despite equivalent body mass, smoking habits and socioeconomic profiles.
Other positive effects on health and behavior have also been observed. Studies have shown that people who live with pets tend to exercise more (A dog will not keep silent and collect dust in the corner like your treadmill) have fewer illnesses and spend more time in positive social interactions. Pets also help people overcome shyness, develop trust, enhance social skills, and cope with terminal illnesses, such as AIDS.
So this New Year, go out to the pound and adopt an animal for your resolution to be a “healthier” individual. Don’t go get a gym membership at 24 Hour Fitness, you’ll probably end up wasting money when you find yourself at the drive-in window instead of the gym on your way home from school or work.
Pet-health oriented facts: People with borderline hypertension had lower blood pressure on days they took their dogs to work. Pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than non-owners. Pets decrease feeling of loneliness and isolation. Pets fulfill many of the same support functions as humans for adults and children.
Contact with pets develops nurturing behavior in children who grow to be more nurturing adults.