8 Incredible Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

A four-legged friend may help to improve health, happiness and overall quality of life

Dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits or turtles; no matter which kind you love most, one thing is true about most animals: almost everybody loves them. And there's one simple reason why: they make us happy.

A growing body of research is beginning to show that time spent with animals, especially cats and dogs, can have a positive impact on your health. Some data shows that an animal's presence can have an effect on everything from your mood to your blood pressure.

According to News In Health, some of the best studies that have examined relationships between humans and animals reveal that the biggest health benefit our four-legged friends may offer is improved cardiovascular health.

One study that examined 421 adults who previously suffered heart attacks found that after one year, subjects who owned dogs were more likely to live longer than those who did not. Another that analyzed 240 married couples found that those who owned pets exhibited lower heart rates and blood pressure levels compared to couples who didn’t have a pet.  

Plus, owning an active animal like a dog makes it likely that your activity levels will increase. Not to mention, you’ll have a loyal workout buddy that’s always there for you.

“People who have dogs are more likely to work out than those without a dog," says Tricia Montgomery, founder of K9 Fit Club, the first ever fitness facility that caters to both humans and dogs. “Activtiy levels increase, from children all the way up to adults. And it allows you that motivation you need. When you think about working out with a human partner, they might cancel on you. A dog will never do that. A dog will always be beside you and is always going to want to work out with you.”  

So, whether you already have a pet, are thinking seriously about getting one or vowed to never let an animal into your house (maybe you'll change your mind after reading this), continue reading to find out more ways that pets can make your life healthier and more enjoyable.

Pets may help develop healthy habits early on in life.

A recent observational study in Australia analyzed the activity levels of 1,097 primary school and 657 secondary school students. Not only did the researchers find that “pet play” was the most popular activity for both primary and secondary school girls (it was second and third most popular for secondary and primary school boys, respectively), but also that the students who reported walking or playing with their pets were significantly more likely to meet the national physical activity recommendations compared to students who didn’t report engaging in such activity.

Pets may help improve your mental health.

Results from a recent study that examined the effects of pet assisted living on the physical, behavioral and emotional functions of cognitively impaired older adults found evidence to support that the programs helped to enhance depressive symptoms, as well as ability for physical activity. Another that followed 29 HIV/AIDS-positive male veterans found that dog ownership helped to relieve symptoms of depression and improve their overall quality of life. Not to mention, pets serve as close companions, which for many can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness.

Click here to see more health benefits of owning a pet.  

6 Ways You Can Workout With Your Dog
The World's 12 Fittest Dog Breeds
Outdoor Gear for You and Your Dog