Can Your Pet Help You Be Healthier?

African-American woman holds cat outdoors on hill

Besides the obvious value of a good snuggle from your dog, what’s the connection between pets and our health? Studies have shown pet ownership may help increase fitness levels, relieve stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as boost overall happiness and well-being. Pets also provide social support, which is an important factor in helping you stick with new healthy habits.

It’s no surprise that people who walk their dogs are more likely to get the recommended amount of physical activity than those who don’t. One study found that pet owners who walk their dogs got up to 22 minutes more exercise a day than non-walkers.

Try these tips for being active with your dog:

  • Go on a picnic. Pack some healthy snacks such as fruit, veggies, mixed nuts and plenty of water (including a bowl for the pup). Bring a ball or other fun toys.

  • Cool off in the sprinklers. When it’s hot, grab swimsuits and sunscreen and run around in the cooling spray with your kids and pooch.

  • Take a dip. If you live near a dog-friendly beach, lake or pool, jump in!

  • Go for a walk. Participate in local fundraising walks (like Heart Walk) or fun runs with the whole family. (Be sure to check that dogs are allowed.) You’ll be getting active together while supporting a great cause.

  • Park it. If your dog plays well with others, hit up the local dog park.

  • Play ball. Head outside anytime to enjoy some fresh air and a quick game of fetch or keep-away. Even if you only have 10 or 15 minutes, you and your dog will get some exercise and bonding time.

  • Walk home from school. Dogs and kids will be excited to see each other after a long day apart, and the trip home gets a lot more fun.

Your dog — and your heart — will thank you!

Welcoming a dog into the family is a big decision with big responsibilities — and many wonderful benefits. And if you end up getting more active with your new loving companion, it’s a win-win.

Bottom line: Being more active and less stressed can help you live a longer, healthier life with your pet.