As far back as 1789 Frederick II, King of Prussia coined the phrase, "dog is man's best friend", but did you know that having animals around can actually help you live longer? It’s true, pets can not only increase your lifespan, but also improve your quality of life.
The secret is out: the fountain of youth is alive, running around on four legs and wants you to go throw the frisbee.
FETCH FOR FITNESS
Maybe that’s why we live longer with animals in our lives... we’re so busy playing, we forget to age.
Children eventually grow up, stop playing and may even become your biggest source of stress (just ask my mother), but dogs always want to play and maintain a youthful spirit well into their senior years.
Anyone who has ever taken a walk in nature with a dog can attest to the fact that dogs help you enjoy the great outdoors on a whole new level. Who is as excited to run amok in the wild, smelling every flower and rolling around in the dirt as gleefully as our faithful canine companions?
Dog-owners have been found to spend considerably more time outside. Spending more time in the outdoors means more active time, which is obviously great for your overall health; from reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer to strengthening your bones. Just being outside more has other health benefits too, like reduced stress levels, lower risk of respiratory allergies and a boost for your brain (due to an increased sense of novelty and excitement).
AT HOME AND AWAY
After a long day at the office, who on Earth is as happy to see you as your dog?
Okay, maybe not, but a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, following more than 4000 cat owners for 10 years, showed that having a cat can significantly decrease the risk of dying from heart disease.
Research has repeatedly shown the long-term benefits of having a pet include protection for your heart. During a 20 year study, people who never owned a cat were 40% more likely to die of a heart attack than those who had a cat. Another study showed that dog owners had a significantly better survival rate one year after a heart attack. Overall, pet owners have a lower risk of dying from any cardiac disease, including heart failure.
But why leave your pet at home when you can bring them with you to work?
A 2012 study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that office workers who brought their dogs to work had lower levels of stress than employees who did not have pets and employees who left their dogs at home.
Having animals in your life helps decrease your stress levels, lowers blood pressure, supports your cholesterol levels, improves your mood and boosts your immune system.
A recent study even found that people who have animals in their homes recover faster from surgery!
The benefits of having a pet or animal in your life are too numerous to count, but we can have fun trying. Some of the main advantages:
- lower risk of depression and anxiety,
- increased levels of serotonin, a chemical associated with feelings of well-being
- decreased levels of cortisol, a hormone caused by stress and associated with higher risk of heart disease and larger waistlines
- increased heart rate for over 20 minutes a day while on walks
- lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides compared to people who do not own pets
Having an animal around helps to keep you active even on those cold and gloomy days when you would prefer to sit in bed and eat ice cream. Your dog will get you outside to see the rainbow you would have otherwise missed, and you'll even have a buddy to snuggle with under the covers when you return from your walk. The love a pet adds to your life cannot be measured.
The jury is in and the verdict is unanimous:
Having a pet doesn’t just add years to your life, it adds life to your years.
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Kerry Emerson is a proud pet owner and a writer based in Hawaii. Taking his cue from his famous relative, Ralph Waldo Emerson, he has a passion for the outdoors, natural living and the art of the written word.