Adopting a pet is something that often takes a lot of thought and consideration. Most people end up getting a dog or cat because they want companionship or someone to “join the family”. Most people also know that pets offer unconditional love. There’s a reason dogs are called “man’s best friend”.
But, did you know that you could be getting more benefits than you bargained for when you adopt a pet of your own?
There have been multiple studies done on the physical and mental health benefits of pets in the home. Whether you’re trying to maintain your health or looking for motivation to make your well-being a priority, a pet could be the perfect solution.
If you’re not sure what benefits to expect when it comes to a pet and your health, keep reading. Chances are, there are more of those benefits than you might think.
A Four-Legged Fitness Friend
If prioritizing your health means starting a fitness journey, a pet can help in more ways than one. First, they can help you to establish a routine. How many times have you had the best of intentions to work out, only to oversleep in the morning, or go straight from the bed to the couch?
A pet can help to keep you on a routine better than any alarm clock. They will typically wake up around the same time each day, either to be let outside to go to the bathroom or wanting to eat. Doing either of those activities can help to wake you up enough that you won’t go back to sleep.
Your pet can also help to boost your activity levels. The average dog needs between 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise each day. Whether you walk around the neighborhood, go on a brisk jog, or play together in the park, they’ll help you stay more active and get nearly as much exercise as they do. Other ways to exercise your dog and yourself all at once include:
- Playing frisbee
- Playing hide-and-seek
- Using a rope for tug-of-war
- Climbing up stairs
In addition to staying physical, your pet can help you focus on your nutrition. Most people consider their four-legged friends to be part of the family. So, it’s important to feed them exactly what their body needs. But, when you start to pay attention to your pet’s nutrition, you’re more likely to pay attention to your own, too. Their clean diet can inspire you to make changes to your own, so you’ll feel better about what you’re putting in your body.
A Mental Health Booster
Pets do more than just improve your physical health. They can also help to alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health conditions. Dogs, in particular, are especially in tune with human emotions. Therapy dogs can actually sense when their owner is about to have an anxiety attack and can step in to help.
But, you don’t need to have a therapy dog to experience the mental health benefits a furry companion can provide. Not only can they help to lower your blood pressure and heart rate, but they can change your brain chemistry and help you to feel happier.
If you struggle with a mental health condition or you simply want to make mental health a priority, adopting a dog or cat can make a big difference in how you feel. They can boost your self-esteem and your self-worth, and help to change your perspective on the world around you into something more positive and stable.
A Constant Companion
If your initial desire to get a pet came from companionship, then you might have been struggling with loneliness more than you realize. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness and isolation became major problems for people across the country. Unfortunately, those problems can lead to health issues like:
- Premature death
- Increased risk of heart problems/stroke
Having a pet around provides a constant source of companionship, and so much more. Pets can reduce stress levels. Being around a dog, for example, can reduce the amount of cortisol your body produces. This is a stress hormone that can cause you to feel overwhelmed and also impact your gut health. On the other hand, being around a pet increases the level of oxytocin in your brain, which helps you to feel calmer and happier. It also increases the bond between you and your pet.
Consider your health goals and where you are on your journey. Whether you want to get fit, eat better, boost your mental health, or simply improve your overall well-being, a pet can help. Keep these benefits in mind if you’re considering adopting, or if you need a reminder to spend more time with your pet. They will be there for you more than anyone else, and if you’re willing to give that love and attention back in return, you’ll both benefit.