Take a moment to think about all the members of your family. Perhaps you share your household with a spouse and children—grandma might even live with you as well. Maybe you’re also lucky enough to have some extended family in East Brunswick: aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews—distant or close relations who remain an important part of your life.
But many American homes also count at least one non-human individual as a member. Furry, feathered or fanged, these animal companions don’t offer much in the way of conversation, but research and experience have consistently proven their unrivaled ability to make us feel great.
If you’re just starting a medical weight loss or OPTIFAST program in East Brunswick, you’ve begun an important journey to a happier, healthier life. But the path to successful weight loss is long, and you’ll likely need a little support along the way. Though you can turn to your doctor, friends and family, your pet can also play a big role in your journey to better health.
The Many Health Benefits of a Pet
Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person, a bird lover or a reptile devotee, forming a relationship with an animal companion can provide some very real benefits to your physical health, including:
- Lower blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
Years of research on human-animal interactions have shown that people who keep pets generally have more fun and feel more secure. They are happier and healthier, with more opportunities for exercise and social activities alike.
Why is this? As has often been said, human beings are social creatures. Being around other animals is a crucial part of being human—every one of us craves interaction. But unlike the interactions we have with other humans, the bonds we share with animals bypass our intellect. The human-animal bond is a purely emotional one, nurturing us in a way that being around other people cannot.
That bond allows your pet to play many important roles in your life that you might not have ever considered. Below are a few of the ways that your pet can have a big impact on your life.
Your Fuzzy Personal Trainer
If you’ve ever owned a dog, particularly a feisty one, this should make perfect sense. Enthusiastic and often hyperactive, a dog will force you outside to play, go for a walk or take a potty break. Research has shown that dog owners are less likely to be overweight and more likely to be active than those without a dog. However, research has also shown that all pet owners get a little more exercise, as caring for any animal will require at least some modicum of physical activity. Any pet has the potential to get you up and active, even if your iguana, canary or guinea pig isn’t exactly begging for a walk.
Your Animal Mood Elevator
Just like engaging in any activity you enjoy, playing with your pet will boost your levels of dopamine and serotonin, two mood-elevating brain chemicals. Interaction with animals has also been shown to instantaneously increase your levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with the pleasure centers of the brain. One study even showed that people felt less stressed during a nerve-wracking activity when accompanied by a pet than they did when accompanied by a friend, family member or spouse; and the calm induced by a pet might be better at fighting high blood pressure than many common medications.
Your Health Watchdog
Animals can detect chemical changes in our bodies that we ourselves may not even notice. Much like dogs trained to sniff out drugs or bombs, many pets are capable of sniffing out health problems in their owners. In fact, one-third of pets with diabetic owners will change their behavior drastically when the blood sugar levels of their owners drop, and this doesn’t just mean dogs—birds, cats and rabbits all show this propensity as well. Animals can detect the onset of an epileptic seizure and get their masters to sit down, while dogs can also sniff out breast and lung cancer with a high degree of accuracy after several months training. If you have any kind of chronic health condition or just want someone else to help you keep an eye on your good health, a pet may be one of the best sources of support out there.
Regardless of what kind of pet you have, caring for one can bring big benefits to your physical and mental health. Keeping a good pet around is a form of alternative medicine you can practice yourself—an excellent source of support for patients of medical weight loss and anyone else who wants to live a happy, healthy life.
Are there any health benefits of keeping a pet that we haven’t mentioned here? Share your feelings on the pros of pet ownership in the comments below.