by Hilary Thompson: Pets are adorable, fun, and most importantly, they never pass judgment on you for wearing the same pair of pants for three days straight…
or eating ice cream for dinner. Sure, owning a pet comes with some responsibility, but if you’re trying to convince yourself (or someone else) that adopting one is a good idea, here’s some very legit evidence that pets can provide both emotional and physical benefits for your overall health.
1. Pets are good for your heart—literally.
Yes, pets are known for doling out the kind of unconditional love that can make your heart grow three sizes, but there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests your pet may offer very real benefits to your literal, blood-pumping heart too. Studies now show that dog owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol—and the data can’t be explained by other factors.
2. Pets can legitimately reduce your stress both at home and at work.
Pets are excellent mental health aids. It’s even becoming clear that it doesn’t much matter what kind of pet you own—you can reap benefits from petting an animal, even a non-furry one, like a turtle.
Some businesses are beginning to pick up on the benefits of pets in the workplace too. “As employers are beginning to understand the impact that pets have on lowering stress, more and more employers are beginning to allow pets—specifically dogs—into the office to lower stress in the workplace,” says Micah Pratt of Business.org.
3. They may even be good for your migraines.
“One of the major triggers for the patients I see with migraines is stress,” says Mark Khorsandi, D.O., founder of the Migraine Relief Center. “Dogs are natural stress relievers—petting an animal can lower your heart rate and decrease blood pressure.”
4. They can get you outside.
“Having my two dogs ‘forces’ me to take them for walks every night,” says Lynette Whiteman, M.S., executive director of Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey. “I walk through a wooded path by my house, and it totally changes my mood and de-stresses me.”
Russell Hartstein, CEO of Fun Paw Care, agrees—and notes that there are a couple of benefits beyond stress relief too. “A dog can act as a social lubricant,” he says. “And can get you in better shape physically, as well.”
5. Pets may be able to actually prevent allergies.
Having pets in childhood may prevent people from being allergy sufferers later in life. Some studies have shown that children who own pets are less likely to develop allergies as adults, but the jury’s still out on whether that works as well for adults—there’s conflicting evidence both ways.
6. Pets just make you happy.
We really don’t need science to prove that pets make us happier, but it does. Some studies have shown that human-animal interactions enhance mood, energy, and learning, and even assist in pain management.
So the next time you see that adorable face beckoning to you from the SPCA, or a stray appears on your doorstep and begs to stay a while, consider how beneficial it might be to both of you to let him into your home. (And tuck this little article away for ammunition if your roommate has a different opinion!) Pets really can be the best medicine.
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