15 April 2024
Stats from National Pet Month show how pets make us healthier

 “Just walking the dog, back soon!” How many of us have uttered these immortal words on our way out? 

Walking. A simple form of exercise, but so good for us. Great for heart health, both human and canine, plus excellent for our mental health too.

Numerous studies have shown that our pets help us get more exercise and, as a result, improve our cardiovascular health.

UK dog owners are four times more likely to meet guidelines of at least 150 minutes of weekly moderate to vigorous activity, research reveals.

Studies consistently show that a large proportion of us regularly enjoy taking our dogs for daily strolls. For some of us, this walk around the block, to the local park, or wherever our feet and paws take us, may be the only physical activity we do. 

For others, it may even limit other activity as “there are only so many hours in the day” and our canine companion takes priority.

Some of us also like to jog or cycle with our dogs.

A study of more than 3.4 million people in Sweden, aged 40 to 80, (Just over 13% had pet dogs) showed that dog ownership had a dramatic effect on people who live alone, cutting the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 36%. In multi-person households, dogs still lowered deaths from heart disease by 15%. 

Research into dog ownership and its role in encouraging physical activity in older adults showed that those who walked canine companions were consistently more physically active than those who did not, regardless of environmental conditions.  

Eighteen per cent of the 3,123 participants reported having a dog at home, with two thirds of owners walking their dogs at least once a day.

Regular dog walkers were more active and less sedentary on poor weather days than non-dog owners were on days with better weather.

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Not only that, but during the worst weather conditions, dog walkers had 20% higher activity levels than non-dog owners and spent 30 minutes a day less sedentary than their poochless counterparts. 

A 2017 BMC Public Health study also clearly demonstrated similar health benefits. Older adults with dogs got an average of 22 additional minutes of walking a day.  

Research indicates that people with pets have lower heart rates and blood pressure plus faster recovery rates when animal companions are present. 

Other studies have revealed that having pets may reduce the risk of developing hypertension and improve blood pressure control in those patients with established hypertension.

A Springer Hypertension Report in 2022 said: “In addition, there is evidence that having pets may improve the prognosis of patients after myocardial infarction and stroke. One of the most important cardioprotective mechanisms of pet ownership is reduction in activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”

With research continuing into the positive effects of pets on our physical health, it’s clear that healthy exercise routines for our pets can have major health benefits for us too. 

So, next time you return from that walk with a “We’re home! Pop the kettle on!” remember that not only are you keeping your animal companion healthy, you’re almost certainly helping yourself too. 

How has caring for a pet improved your physical health? Share your #PetPawsitivity stories and pics with us.

National Pet Month: April 1-May 1