Six Reasons Your Dog Makes You Healthier
By Marie-Josée Shaar
When my sister and I were kids, Melanie had more talent than I did in just about everything – except maybe perseverance, because with her ability level, she really didn’t need that much perseverance (no worries, I don’t have a complex, she just had an easier time than most). She was such a fast learner that school was boring to her. But at some point when she was in 5th grade, completely unexpectedly, her marks started to decline. Her mood slumped. She couldn’t find her usual enthusiasm.
Melanie’s teacher suggested that our parents get a dog because it could help her in many ways. That smart lady definitely knew what she was talking about. Just a few weeks after welcoming Caresse (meaning hug in French) into our family, my sister’s grades, attitude, and life were back on track.
As the co-author of Smarts and Stamina and a health and wellness consultant, I try to be thorough in my study of what helps people attain and maintain robust health. So today, I’d like to spend a few minutes looking at the many health benefits of owning a dog.
Have you ever thought about it?
Research reported by Johns Hopkins Health Alerts shows that in healthy relationships, dog ownership can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol while simultaneously boosting the good guys oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. This is great news for all dog parents, as my works demonstrates how this new biochemical concoction will then help the rest of their health habits. Here’s why:
The improved oxytocin and serotonin helps regulate dog parents’ sleep. The reduced cortisol decreases the likelihood of insomnia.
BETTER EATING HABITS
The boost of oxytocin and serotonin, as well as the drop in cortisol help dog owners keep their food intake in check by reducing cravings and emotional eating.
Reduced cortisol helps us feel less irritable, and more patient. Increased serotonin and oxytocin helps us feel calmer, friendlier, and more loving. Increased dopamine makes us more energetic, too. Overall, dog owners also experience decreased anxiety.
Dog parenting is often associated with increased exercise. Michigan State University researchers reported that 60% of dog owners who take their pets for regular walks meet federal criteria for regular exercise. Nearly one in two dog walkers exercise an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. Only about one of three non-dog-owners get that much regular exercise.
Probably thanks to the improved habits described above, things get better. Owning a dog is associated with improved blood pressure and cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
Maybe as a result or maybe on top of all of the above benefits, dog owners tend to live longer!
So I’d be curious to hear your stories and thoughts on how your dogs affect your health. Do you find that your dog helps you sleep better, eat healthier while improving your mood and exercise habits?
Marie-Josée Shaar, MAPP, is a Corporate Wellness Program Designer and Facilitator. She is the author of 2012 Amazon Healthy Living best-seller SMARTS AND STAMINA, which is a practical guide to better sleep, food, mood and exercise habits. She speaks on the topics of wellness, behavioral change, positive psychology, stress management and productivity. MJ has an undergrad in organizational behavior and a Master in Applied Positive Psychology. She is a Certified Wellness Culture Coach, a Certified Personal Trainer and a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. To learn more about Marie-Josée’s work and check out her blog, visit www.smartsandstamina.com
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