Having a dog is good for health

Aside from companionship, having a dog can actually be good for your health. One study demonstrates the link between owning a pet and improved well-being.

If you’re a pet owner, or rather dog owner you’ll know the feeling: it’s a chilly evening and you’re just about to head off to bed but there’s one last thing to do- take the dog outside to wee. You stand there, shivering slightly, rubbing hands together and hoping your little furry friend will hurry up so you can escape back into the warmth of the house. He’s done and now you make your walk back inside and breathe a sigh of relief when you close the door behind you. That little sojourn outside into the cool air was actually good for you, yes, good for you.

Firstly, you’ve had to get up and walk there, which not only is good for your heart and cardio fitness but also your bones. Weight-bearing exercise, like walking works to strengthen bones. Any exercise that forces you to work against gravity is good for your bones and your heart, so that means the stationary wait for your little pet to go pee-pee is beneficial. Slight shivering and rubbing hands is your body’s way of increasing heat through your muscles tightening and loosening very quickly and involuntarily, so bracing yourself for the cool night air is good for you too. Who would have thought that those few minutes outside could really do you good? In fact, it’s the many small efforts consistently over time which add up to better health overall; we call consistent efforts over time, habits. The habit of taking your dog out to do its business is doing you more good than you realise, so keep it up!

A study was conducted in the UK where researchers tracked how much senior citizens who owned dogs, and those who didn’t, walked every day. It’s easy to guess which group walked more than the other; yes, the dog owners. In fact, the dog owners walked on average 23 minutes more daily than their counterparts. And what’s even more inspiring is that this rate of exercise actually meets with the international exercise recommendations for good health. The research also revealed that dog owners tend not to dawdle when outside walking their pets; they tend to engage in a more meaningful stride at a moderate pace. The World Health Organisation recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly; that’s 21.5 minutes a day. Not much at all and very easy to achieve if you’re a dog owner.

What’s interesting is that the head researcher in the study believes that this shows that the benefits of this come from having dogs rather than dog owners just being more active. To put it simply, having a dog naturally makes people more active. When someone owns a dog, the motivation to keep active and the likelihood that the owner will be more physically active is higher. Go on, get a dog, it’s good for you.