Health benefits of being a pet owner

Millions of Americans love the company of their pets and find constant joy in the companionship of a furry friend. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than half of all American households have a pet. In fact, there are more pets than children in households across the country, though animals are very popular in households with children.

Animals have been an important part of human culture forever, being ever-present figures in religion and history. There are many immediate benefits of having an animal to take care of and spend time with, but there are also several health benefits for mental and physical well-being.

Senior fitness
Dog owners know that their animals need exercise, and coincidentally, one of the biggest problems among seniors is inactivity. With a dog, however, seniors are more likely to get outside and go for a walk every day. Walking is excellent exercise enjoyed by people and animals alike. While having a dog does not guarantee that seniors will get more exercise, it offers more opportunities to move around and play.

Walking is not the only exercise to do with a pet. Running or jogging is also very popular between dogs and their owners, as well as biking, hiking and agility training. As of recently, there is even something called “doga” – which is a yoga class that involves dogs.

Heart health
While physical activity has a direct effect on heart health, pets actually have an even greater impact. Pet owners typically have lower blood pressure, as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – all of which can reduce the risk of having a heart attack later in life. Studies have shown that those who have already had a heart attack may recover better and sooner when they own a pet. Perhaps a pet can fill a heart with love and make a person healthier as a result. It is more likely that pets actually can reduce stress levels of their owners and produce heart-healthy benefits. 

Beyond heart health, living with an animal can actually reduce allergies. It may seem backwards, but studies have shown that children who live in a home with pets are less likely to have allergy problems later in life.

Senior mental health
In addition to better physical well-being, pet owners are less likely to feel lonely or depressed. A common fear among those entering senior retirement is loneliness. A pet can help alleviate that fear and be beneficial for senior mental health. Pets offer their owners unconditional love and a sense of purpose in life. Having an animal can bring joy and meaning to life, particularly during times of transition when leaving the workforce. Because pets are known to boost moods and feelings of happiness, they are frequently used as a means of therapy among different groups of people.

Perhaps the main reason Americans get a pet is companionship. Having an animal can make it easier to face stressful situations. Additionally, there are many opportunities to meet other pet owners, such as going to the local dog park, participating in a class or in online communities. There are millions of Americans who are so passionate about their pets that they want to partake in a community with like-minded people. For seniors who are looking for companionship, owning a pet can provide the right path.

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