6 Ways Owning a Pet Can Boost Your Health

Cute puppies and furry cats make great additions to the family, and they can even help boost their owners' health. Studies show that animals can help people make healthy choices and lead positive lifestyles. Here are six ways your pet can boost your health.

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Physical activity should be part of your daily life. And owning a pet can help make that happen, according to a study by the Wellness Institute at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The research showed that people who regularly exercised with their dogs were more likely to stick to their workout plan than participants without dogs. Because the animals need to be taken out of the house to urinate or take a walk, the study showed they are great motivators for their owners.
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Dogs aren't the only pets that serve as great motivators to get moving. If you have a cat, consider stretching and doing yoga with your furry friend. Yoga can help lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain and arthritis, which affects one in five people over 18.
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Another study found that cat ownership lowered people's risk of cardiovascular diseases. The research, conducted by the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Research Center at the University of Minnesota, showed that cat owners were at lower risk for a fatal heart attack or stroke.
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While pets can motivate owners to take on healthy habits, like exercise, they can also motivate people to kick unhealthy habits. A study published by the the journal Tobacco Control found that more than a quarter of pet-owning smokers attempted to quit smoking after learning about the negative effects of secondhand smoke on their animals, which includes cancers in cats and dogs; allergies in dogs; and eye, skin and respiratory diseases in birds.
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In a bad mood? Try calmly petting your dog or cat. As Prevention magazine reported, simple interactions with your pet causes your brain to release the calming hormone oxytocin, as the stress hormone cortisol goes down. One study even found that dogs’ behavior toward humans was similarly influenced by the oxytocin system. So when you and your dog spend some quality time together, it's a mutually beneficial interaction.
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Pets can also increase the quality of life of people suffering from Alzheimer’s, according to the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute. Animals can reduce agitated behaviors and improve awareness, communication skills and depressive symptoms.
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