Pets are one of life’s greatest gifts. They keep us company when we’re lonely, give us a sense of purpose in life, and they’re pretty darn cute to boot. But did you know having a pet can also be beneficial to your health? Here are six ways a pet can make you healthier.
1. They Build Tolerance to Allergens
Believe it or not, having a pet actually boosts your immunity to allergens. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that children with a pet in the home were as much as 33% less likely to develop allergies later in life, and those with a pet had stronger immune systems overall.
2. They Boost Your Mood
Playing with a cat or dog has physical benefits similar to exercising, raising your levels of dopamine and serotonin. These are nerve transmitters that contribute to feelings of calmness, pleasure and well-being. Interestingly enough, these are the same chemicals released when drug abusers use their substance of choice. So playing with your pet is the brain’s healthy way of achieving a “natural high”, so to speak.
3. They Keep You Moving
Whether you’re taking your dog on a five-mile hike or chasing down your cat in the neighbor’s yard, having a pet is a surefire way to get more exercise. Exercise has innumerable health benefits, from losing weight to lowering your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Plus, it’s almost the same accountability effect as having a workout buddy. When those puppy-dog eyes are begging for a walk, you’re much more likely to get off the couch.
4. They Raise Your Self Esteem
Pets act like a 24/7 support system, loving us no matter what the situation. And according to the American Psychological Association, this contributes to a higher self-esteem and a lowered incidence of depression. The association’s study found that pet owners felt better after experiencing rejection and reported being more content with life in general than those without pets.
5. They Lower Your Blood Pressure
Though this may come as news to you, it’s a well-known fact at the Centers for Disease Control that people with dogs and cats have lower blood pressure than those without. Lower blood pressure means lower risk of dangerous health incidents, like heart attacks.
6. They Help Us Socialize
Ever met someone knew and struggled to find common ground…until you find out you both have a dog? Pets give us commonalities with people we might otherwise not share much with, and it opens up the door to deeper and more lasting relationships. If you’re looking for love, the dog park or the local animal shelter are great places to meet and connect with fellow pet lovers.
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