Exercising and eating well aren’t just important for the human contingent of your family. Pets can be affected by so-called lifestyle illnesses too, and if you want your pet to live a happy, healthy life then it’s important that you include them in your efforts to improve and maintain the overall health and fitness of your family. Read on for Kwiksure’s top tips on how having a pet can actually do wonders for your own - as well as your pet’s - health, happiness and wellbeing.
1. Run with your dog
We’ll start with the most obvious way you can get fit and healthy with your pet; taking him for a walk or, even better, for a run. Dogs need to exercise every day - some especially active dogs need vigorous exercise several times daily - and as a result they're great motivation for you to get out the house and get active regularly. There are plenty of perks of being a responsible dog owner: your dog will stay trim and healthy, you’ll feel good about treating your pet well, and you’ll lose weight and build muscle in the meantime. In fact, according to a study by researchers at the University of Sydney, 9% of cases of coronary heart disease among dog owners could be prevented if they walked their dogs for at least a hundred and fifty minutes a week - that’s just half an hour a day.
2. Save money on gym memberships
Having a hyperactive dog around the house can be excellent motivation for those needing encouragement to do some outdoor activity. You’ll find that if you forget to walk your dog, he’ll remind you pretty quickly, and having a pet drive you out of the house for an hour or so leads to ample opportunities for more physical activity. Gym memberships in Hong Kong can add up to several hundred dollars per month, and significantly more if you’re taking classes or paying for one-on-one training. Instead, think of your dog as your personal trainer, who’ll practically drag you off the sofa and out for a run, or into the park to play, even when you’re at your laziest. You can burn plenty of calories chasing your dog around, and a rubber ball or a frisbee costs a lot less than a treadmill.
3. Get into a healthy routine
Sleeping in at the weekend can be a good way to catch up on the vital rest time that you’ve missed out on throughout a busy week, but if you overindulge you’re likely to find that your health suffers. When there’s a significant discrepancy between your weekly sleep schedule and your weekend sleep schedule, you can end up sleeping in late on weekends and spending what’s left of the day in a state of groggy stagnation eating ready meals in front of the television. Drastically differing sleep patterns can put a great deal of stress on your body, but this can be avoided by those who own a dog. Pets help you to maintain regular sleep schedules, and will have you up and out of bed on those days when you’d otherwise waste the morning snoozing.
4. Feel motivated to push yourself further
It has been found that dog owners who cater to their pets’ needs tend to make better fitness decisions for themselves. Whilst walking or running with your dog, you’ll no doubt find your pet an excellent motivator to go that extra mile or so further, or to take just another quick stroll around the park before you go to bed. These extra little efforts may seem insignificant, but over time you’ll see a difference in both your dog and yourself. For one thing, you’ll probably both sleep better, especially when you’ve tired yourselves out after a strenuous workout, and the regular exercise will help you slim down and tone up, meaning you can exercise for longer each time you go out.
5. Boost your self-esteem
Correlational evidence exists that having a dog can make you a more sociable person. The very act of stepping outside with your dog creates opportunities for socializing and being in contact with other people, and especially other dog owners. Having a pet is a great ice-breaker, and you’re likely to strike up friendships by meeting the same dog owners over and over again at the dog park or on your pet’s favourite walking route. Research has even shown that dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than their dogless counterparts; dogs are loyal companions, enthusiastic playmates and an excellent reason to get up in the morning and begin your day.
6. Reap the benefits of a strengthened immune system
Children that grow up in a house with a dog have been found to develop fewer allergies and have a stronger immune system than those in petless households.Research published in the journal Pediatrics has found evidence that exposure to pets early on in life can stimulate children’s immune systems to fight off infection more effectively. In fact, researchers found that those kids who had a dog during their first year of life were found to have 31% fewer respiratory tract infections and 44% fewer ear infections than those who didn't live with a dog. Evidently, then, having a dog around the house can have positive health effects not just for you, but for your whole family.
7. Lower your blood pressure just by chilling out with your pet
Remarkably, evidence exists that just petting your dog can have positive effects on your health. Researchers from Mindlab International have found that every time you pet your dog, your brain releases oxytocin and serotonin, which have been found to de-constrict blood vessels and to lower the levels of hydrocortisone in your body. These physiological reactions help, in turn, to reduce stress and to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Spending quality time with your pets, then, can have a highly positive impact on you both psychologically and physiologically, as you can rest assured in the knowledge that even after an exhausting workout chasing your dog around the park, you can continue to improve your health simply by chilling out on the sofa with him.
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