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The Top 4 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

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Shil1978 is a science buff with 11 years of experience writing about of psychology and related-topics.

Did you know pets can improve both your physical and emotional health? Those who have pets would readily agree that animal companions can have an immensely positive effect on you. However, most of us don't really know what these positive effects are in concrete terms. We just think of them as the general good feelings we get when we are around our pets, but they can offer numerous real benefits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that having a pet can decrease your blood pressure, can decrease cholesterol levels, and can also decrease triglyceride levels. They also say that pets can increase your opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities, and increase your opportunities for socialization.

Here are the top four benefits pets can have on our physical and emotional health.

Pets are truly a gift.

Pets are truly a gift.

Four Health Benefits of Having Pets

1. Pets Make You More Active

Pets invariably make us more active than we otherwise would have been. Imagine idling your time away doing nothing at all, just sitting on the couch, watching TV, and snacking on potentially unhealthy and fattening foods. Is that beneficial for your health? A pet like a dog can give you a good workout and an active lifestyle, which can do wonders for your heart. You can get some exercise walking your dog or playing with your dog. Dogs are active animals and they transfer this active lifestyle to you as well, thus benefiting you immensely.

Several studies have demonstrated that dog owners may get more exercise than the rest of us. One NIH-funded study looked at more than 2,000 individuals and found that dog owners who regularly walked their dogs were more physically active and less likely to be obese than those who did not own or walk a dog.

Having a dog can make you more active.

Having a dog can make you more active.

2. Pets Are Good Stress Busters

Pets can greatly reduce the stresses in our lives and hence be good for your blood pressure and heart. How often have you returned home totally stressed out and drained from a difficult day at work only to be greeted by your favorite cat or dog, instantly cheering you up and elevating your mood? Less stress = a healthy heart and body. Imagine all the stress that would add up day after day without any release. If you are single and living alone without a companion especially, handling life's stresses can be overwhelming, more so if you are prone to depression. A pet makes life easier than it is.

One National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study looked at 421 adults who had suffered heart attacks. A year later, the scientists found that dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than those who did not own dogs, irrespective of the severity of the heart attack. A study that looked at 240 married couples found that those who owned a pet had lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without pets. Pet owners were also seen to have milder responses and quicker recovery from stress when they were with their pets than with a spouse or a friend.

Pets can help alleviate stress in your daily life.

Pets can help alleviate stress in your daily life.

3. Pets Can Earn You New Friends And Dates

Pets provide good socialization opportunities, especially for the introvert and shy individual, but also for non-introverts. Pets can become the talking point. You may be stopped and approached by someone keen to know the breed of your dog or any tricks your dog may be showing off that they were attracted to. So even without having to make the first move, you may end up becoming friends with lots of strangers, some of whom you may very well grow to love and date in the future.

Having a pet, therefore, provides you much greater socialization opportunities than you might otherwise have.

4. Pets Give Love Without Asking for Anything in Return

Last but not least, pets provide you unconditional companionship and love. They have no expectations in terms of money or other material benefits that some real-world friends may have. They aren't judging you or putting on a mask.

We live in a world where some of our so-called friends are increasingly selfish and self-centered, always expecting things from us and sometimes backstabbing us. Pets offer us companionship and love free of charge and without any malice or hidden agendas. They offer you love and you love them for who they are. There is no danger of being unfriended or cut out. You can always count on your pet to be there for you when you need them.

The unconditional love we get from our pets is priceless.

The unconditional love we get from our pets is priceless.

Worried About Your Kids Getting Allergies From Pets?

The conventional wisdom is that having pets is a bad idea with respect to allergies, especially if you have kids in your family, as they are more prone to developing allergies than adults. However, recent research by Dr. James E. Gern, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, suggests that kids growing up with pets have a lesser risk of developing allergies and asthma. This is as a result of reduced allergic sensitization.

Dr. Gern's research indicates that children growing up with pets, having exposure to allergens through early childhood, develop a stronger immune system than children who grow up in families that have no pets. However, if there is already an allergic history in the family to certain animals, then it is probably best to avoid those animals as pets.

Pets can bring true joy into your life.

Pets can bring true joy into your life.

With all of the above benefits, it might be a good idea to consider having a pet, if you don't already have one. Choose a pet based on your particular situation and lifestyle. I love cats and dogs in particular. I think they make the best pets, as they benefit equally from having your companionship. There is no "owning" of the pet with them. You aren't imprisoning them.

So choose your pet wisely and look forward to a better and healthier lifestyle. With a pet, you will always have a friend and companion to turn to and never feel alone.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Shil1978