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Need a healthier lifestyle? A dog can help with that

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Need a healthier lifestyle? A dog can help with that

This topic just so happens to be near and dear to my heart, because my long time readers know that I LOVE my two pooches, they are (gulp) my best friends in the whole world, they don't judge, and they are my running buddies every single day....even if another human decides to come along!  It has always been long presumed that dogs encouraged people to be more active because they need to walk their dogs and get exercise, but especially in this day and age were people tend to be more sedentary, the medical community is actually starting to do real studies on the effects of canines on human health!

The University of Michigan recently performed a study that found people with dogs 34% more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements, and in light of the information I gave you guys a week or so ago about a majority of Americans missing the boat on meeting exercise targets, this is HUGE!!  People have reported feeling healthier and losing weight after getting a dog.  A different study in the American Journal of Public Health found that dog owners were 57%-77%more likely to get the recommended amount of daily activity because of their pets!  Honestly, where I live, it is torrentially raining, and I have already suited up in my wellies and gone out for a walkies with the dogs, which I normally wouldn't have done on a day like today when I don't have to be out the door for a few hours.  And interestingly, in the study, it was found that not only were the owners of dogs getting activity from walking their dogs, but they showed an overall higher amount of physical activity.  Walking is the most accessible form of activity for people, and getting out to do any small form of physical acivity encourages you to do more!

I must say, I got so excited reading these studies, that maybe some of the millions of dogs waiting to get adopted all over the world might get placed by those hoping to get in shape.  But, I also think about the fact that I still see obese people with dogs, that are happy to go sit at a dog park while their dogs exercise, so it did make me question the validity of the study.  I then found a recent study from the University of Virginia looking at the effects of dogs on children; children who grow up with or frequently interact with dogs get much more moderate to vigorous physical activity a week.  Considering the current obesity rates of children today, this can be so helpful in getting kids excited to get exercise and do something physical without being forced!  Kids love to play with dogs, it makes common sense that it will have a positive health benefit on the whole family!

A few other weaker studies have shown some different health effects as well such as increased life expectancy for the elderly (especially those living on their own), a decreased rate of adult asthma in children living in homes with dogs (most likely due to increased physical activities), pet owners have stronger immune systems, and that interactions can help reduce stress, signs of depression, and blood pressure.

Who would have thought that dogs can act as an alternative therapy to blood pressure medication?  I guess anyone with a dog knows that coming home after a stressful day, and seeing someone so excited to see you that they can't stop loving you, and want nothing from you other than a little love back, it absolutely priceless as far as de-stressing and lifting your mood.

I realize that not everyone can run out and get a dog, but maybe you can offer to help out with a friends dog, a neighbors dog, or start a dog running service (I have actually seen a lot of college kids offering this on craigslist as a way to get paid for doing what they would do anyway!)  But, if you have been thinking about it, go get a dog, get out there with your new pal and get some exercise!!  I am not going to lie that a puppy is a lot of work, integrating a dog into your life at any time is, and a monetary investment (vet bills, preventative care, FOOD) but it will be so worth it, and the whole family will benefit!


 


Go out to your local shelter and get a dog, do something good for the community AND for yourself!

Yours in Good Health
B



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