Owning Pets for a Healthy Lifestyle

By Mayo Clinic Staff | January 4th, 2022

Enhance your fitness levels and mental health, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and more!


dog and cat on lap Photo by Jevtic Dreamstime. For article on Owning Pets for a Healthy Lifestyle Image

The staff of the Mayo Clinic discusses the benefits of owning pets for a healthy lifestyle – including while working from home during COVID times.


DEAR MAYO CLINIC:

I have been working from home as a result of COVID-19. The adjustment has been difficult and has created a lot of stress and strain on my mental and physical health. I find that I spend much of my time in front of the computer. I eat more often, and I barely go outside. A friend suggested I adopt a dog to lift my spirits and get me motivated to go outside. Would I see any real benefits from this? Is there any connection between pets and our health?

ANSWER:

Pets play a huge role in creating a healthy lifestyle. In fact, studies have shown that pet ownership can enhance fitness levels, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, relieve stress, improve mental and heart health, and boost overall happiness and well-being. Evidence also suggests that connections to pets provide good social support – an important factor in helping you stick with new health habits.

One of the main benefits of pets for a healthy lifestyle is that dogs force us to get up and move for routine and regular walks. A research study found that dog owners are more likely to report regular physical activity patterns, a healthy diet, and ideal blood sugar levels compared to those who do not own dogs. This is beneficial to heart health because increased physical activity helps strengthen heart muscles, making it more efficient in pumping blood throughout the body and improving overall heart health.


‘Disappointing My Dog’: Boomer reader Phil Perkins on his dog, Skippy


It’s no secret that pets contribute to overall happiness. Owning a dog has even been linked to better mental health and less perception of social isolation – both risk factors for heart attacks. Dog owners have increased interaction with people, and they are less likely to experience depression. This helps to diminish social isolation, which can reduce worse health outcomes and premature death.

Even just interacting with a dog has shown to increase levels of “feel-good” brain chemicals, such as oxytocin and dopamine. This creates positive, happy feelings and a great bonding experience for you and your pet. Pets bring a significant benefit to working from home. Over 50% of people surveyed said they would prefer if they could bring their pet to work.

Mental benefits of pets for a healthy lifestyle

There are four major ways pets can help with your mental health while working from home:

  1. Pets can reduce work-related stress. Two out of three employees say work stresses them out, and 40% say their job gets in the way of their health. Studies show that pets in the workplace reduce stress and improve employee satisfaction.
  2. Pets help manage anxiety. Up to 30% of the workforce could be working from home multiple days per week by the end of 2021, according to Global Workplace Analytics. So, now more than ever, people are struggling with mental health. Pets provide companionship and support.
  3. Pets help you be more active. Pets give us a reason to get outside, get some fresh air, and get in some physical activity.
  4. Pets combat loneliness. The bond with pets helps people feel less alone. Owners can touch, see, hear, or talk to their companion animals, which helps to bring joy and happiness.

Aside from mental health, owning a pet – a canine in particular – can significantly help your heart. This is the finding of a Kardiozive Brno 2030 study, which looked at the association of pet ownership – specifically dog ownership – with cardiovascular disease risk factors and cardiovascular health, in part due to the increase in physical activity.

While walking a dog around the neighborhood may not always sound so enticing, don’t forget to look for ways to incorporate your furry friend into other activities. If your neighborhood has a local dog park, it’s a wonderful way for your dog to work off some energy while you make friends with other canine owners.


Technology and other cool products to make your pets safer and happier – and to make pet ownership easier!


Consider also that you can hop in the car with your pet and have a picnic elsewhere. Bring healthy snacks and plenty of water for both of you. In warmer months, venture out to a nearby beach or lake. You can run or walk on the shore, chase balls, and swim. There is always something to be said for getting exercise outdoors and having a companion.

Owning a dog is a big decision that takes a lot of responsibility, but there are countless mental and physical benefits. Consider getting a pet to help you be more active and socially connected, while also improving heart health and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

– Compiled by Mayo Clinic staff

Mayo Clinic Q & A is an educational resource and doesn’t replace regular medical care. E-mail a question to MayoClinicQ&A@mayo.edu. For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.org.

© 2021 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

More from Boomer

Soldier sitting and talking on a phone while also looking at a laptop for resources, such as resources are available to help veterans managing IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Image courtesy of Getty Images via Family Features. Image

Veterans Managing IBD

By Family Features | November 8, 2022
Did you know that chili peppers are good for you? We look at the lore, the research, and at chili peppers for health benefits they provide. Image

Chili Peppers for Health!

By Lori Zanteson, Environmental Nutrition | October 10, 2022