It’s nice being able to snuggle up next to a loving pet, but what’s even nicer is that a furry companion can help a person lose weight, reduce stress, and potentially keep the doctor away. Of course, it’s impossible to resist a dog’s puppy-dog eyes or a cat’s funny personality, but pet owners get a lot more than unconditional love. Nearly two-thirds of Americans own a pet, and animal companions help their owners combat health issues in incredible ways. Making lifestyle changes are challenging enough, so it’s nice knowing a pet can make the transition while changing diets (check out the Body Reboot book for a diet is helping many people improve their lives), or improving one’s mental health. Below are some profound ways our furry companions can improve our health.
As we briefly just mentioned above, Huffington Post comments on how a pet can help you lose weight. If you’re starting a new diet such as high fat, low carb diet known as the keto diet, a pet can help you through it. In addition to getting on the right diet, find out how your furry pooch can help you shed the weight!
Want to drop a few pounds? Grab Fido and get hoofing. Research has repeatedly found that daily dog walks help you lose weight, since they force you to into moderate physical activity for 10, 20, and even 30 minutes at a time. In fact, in 2010, one small study discovered public housing residents who walked “loaner” dogs five times a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds over the course of a year. The best part: Participants considered it a responsibility to the dog, rather than exercise. (”They need us to walk them.”)
Health Magazine reveals that pets can help with depression, which is impressive considering how hard it is going through depression. Struggling with depression also interferes with making healthy steps, so a pet should be able to help with that too.
Pets can provide social support for their owners, who tend to have better overall wellbeing than non-owners, according to a study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. And a large review of studies by the British Psychological Society found that dogs especially promote therapeutic and psychological wellbeing, particularly lowering stress levels and boosting self-esteem, as well as feelings of autonomy and competence. “The calming presence and the social bond that pets bring can be very powerful,” says Dr. Christenson. “Animals give something to focus on instead of the negative thoughts a depressed person is prone to have. When a pet pays attention to you, they're giving you unconditional love and acceptance.”
Animal therapy is becoming very popular, and Time says that a pet can help a lot with anxiety and similar mental health conditions.
The rise of animal therapy is backed by increasingly serious science showing that social support–a proven antidote to anxiety and loneliness–can come on four legs, not just two. Animals of many types can help calm stress, fear and anxiety in young children, the elderly and everyone in between.
More research is needed before scientists know exactly why it works and how much animal interaction is needed for the best results. But published studies show that paws have a place in medicine and in mental well-being. “The data is strong,” Beck says. “If you look at what animals do for people and how we interact with them, it’s not surprising at all.” Here’s a look some of the cutting-edge science in the field.
Of course, going on the keto diet helps with heart health, and if you have a pet in your life, Harvard Health says that can help your heart as well. See what they discovered below:
There is some evidence that owning a dog is associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A large study focusing on this question found that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners, and that these differences weren't explainable by diet, smoking, or body mass index (BMI). However, the reason for these differences is still not clear.
Dogs' calming effect on humans also appears to help people handle stress. For example, some research suggests that people with dogs experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly, dampening the effects of stress on the body.
Going back to exercise, if you stay active together Heart.org says that’ll also improve your heart. Keep yourself occupied by having fun with your furry pooch (or another animal), and you’ll likely make better food choices as well.
Try these tips for being active together. Your dog, and your heart, will thank you!
Go on a picnic. Pack some healthy snacks like fruit, veggies, mixed nuts, and plenty of water, including a bowl for your dog! Bring some fun toys like a frisbee or ball and play a game of catch.
Cool off in the sprinklers. When it’s hot, grab swimsuits and sunscreen and run around with your kids and pooch in the cooling spray.
Take a dip. If you live near a beach, lake or pool that is dog-friendly, bring your pupster along for a swim.
Go for a walk. Participate in local fundraising walks (like the Heart Walk) or fun runs with the whole family. Check to make sure dogs are allowed. You’ll be getting active together while supporting a great cause.
Park it. If your dog plays well with others, hit up the local dog park to toss a ball or just run with the pack.
Play ball. Head outside anytime to enjoy some fresh air and a quick game of fetch or keep-away. Even if you only have 10 or 15 minutes to spare, you and your dog will get some exercise and bonding time.
Walk home from school. If your kids can walk home from school or a bus drop-off point, bring the dog to meet them and walk home together.
In support of Heart.org’s thoughts, Everyday Health also says that dogs can help you stay active and make better health decisions.
Your pooch may be the best fitness trainer around. Dog owners are 41 percent more likely to meet government recommendations for moderate exercise through walking (at least 150 minutes a week at a brisk pace), according to a 2008 Australian study. And strolling with a dog tends to perk up your normal pace, according to research on elderly dog walkers at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
To turn strolls with your pooch into a workout, aim to move at a pace of at least 3.5 miles per hour, five days a week for 30 minutes at a time, says Mathew Reeves, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. “No stopping at every lamppost,” he says.
Having a stressful day? The good news is that pets relieve stress and Healthline explains why that’s the case:
Simply being in the same room as your pet can have a calming effect. “A powerful neurochemical, oxytocin, is released when we look at our companion animal, which brings feelings of joy,” says Johnson. “It's also accompanied by a decrease in cortisol, a stress hormone.” Through her research with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Johnson has witnessed the powerful effects of animals. “One veteran couldn't leave his home without his wife until we placed a dog with him and in less than a week he was able to go around his town,” she says.
Everyday Health supports Healthline’s thoughts by citing a survey that discusses how having a pet result in having lower stress levels. If you’re going to be successful on a diet keeping your stress levels low is vital as your mental health and relationship with food are tied together.
Forget the bath and scented candle: A snuggle with your animal companion may be all you need to stamp out stress. A survey of more than 1,500 Americans ages 14 to 83 found that owning a pet was associated with lower stress levels, according to research from the Delta Society, which promotes the use of service animals.
Interacting with an animal reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol in as few as five minutes, according to research from Sandra Barker, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. “Whether that’s because of the distraction or the tactile quality, we don’t know yet,” she says.
It’s nice knowing a pet has such positive effects on their humans and coupled with the keto diet transitioning to living a healthier life is possible! We outline what the keto diet is all about and what you can eat in the Body Reboot book. Help us cover the cost of shipping and visit this page to get a free copy of the book before our remaining copies are gone. We can’t wait for you to become a part of our Reboot community!
Sources: Heart.org, Health Magazine, Harvard Health, Time, Everyday Health, Huffington Post
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