Looking for ways to improve your health, increase your fitness, and lower stress? You may want to spend more time with a pet.

Studies show that owning a pet can provide positive cardiovascular and psychological benefits. The American Heart Association noted that pet ownership, particularly dog ownership, is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Who knew that man’s best friend could also be a boon for good health? It turns out that pets of the furry, feathered, or even scaly variety may improve health.

Reduces Blood Pressure & Stress

We know it’s tough to resist that adoring look from your dog or loving purr from your cat, but there’s even more reason to give them extra attention after a long, hard day. As you pet them, it can actually help lower your blood pressure.

Let’s say you have a tiny apartment or allergies which make it tough to own furry friends? There’s still a stress reducing effect (which in turn can reduce your heart rate or blood pressure) from watching fish swim in an aquarium or petting a turtle, to just looking at animals (cue sweet or funny cat videos).

Increases Activity

If you are a dog owner, you may get the added benefit of increased exercise which aids healthy management of stress, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Plus, there’s more motivation when your four-legged friend is begging for a walk and eager to go!

Even if it’s just a 10-15 minute jaunt around the block at a time, if you go out in the morning and evening you’ll be more likely to hit 30 minutes of activity per day.

Decreases Negativity & Anxiety

The human response to owning a pet goes beyond the physical, and is likely to have a positive impact on our emotions. We are social beings and the companionship of pets can help us to feel less lonely and have a greater sense of well-being, according to this study at Miami University and St Louis University.

There is a growing number of studies that show time with animals can help provide a calming, supportive effect and animal therapy is being incorporated into programs at children’s hospitals and other clinical settings.

People who own pets also have increased opportunities to meet others or make connections through their pets, which can help ease anxiety in social situations. If you’ve ever commented on a cute puppy as it walks by, struck up a conversation at a dog park, or just felt a connection with someone because they proclaimed they were a dog or cat person, you can understand how animals may forge new friendships through these kinds of ice-breakers.

In general pet ownership comes with its own responsibilities and associated costs, but it seems that as we attend to pet’s needs, they may be in turn helping us to live more present, full, and healthier lives!

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