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Top Reasons Why Owning a Pet is Good for Your Health

Top Reasons Why Owning a Pet is Good for Your Health

If you are a pet owner, you probably already know about the joys that come with owning a pet, whether it’s a cat or dog or something more exotic like birds or fish.

But did you know that there are also proven health benefits that come from living with a furry or feathered friend? It’s true — owning a pet can actually make you healthier in many important ways, including the ones below.

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You’ll Get — and Stay — in Better Shape

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30 minutes of exercise is needed to stay in shape and help prevent chronic diseases — but most Americans do not get anywhere near that amount of activity. One of the best things about owning a pet — especially a dog — is that is can help you to get and stay in shape. One study found that dog owners were less likely than non-dog owners to be overweight or obese.

The great thing is that you have a whole array of choices when it comes to exercising with your dog: you can go running, jogging or walking with it before or after work. Hiking with your dog on the weekend is also a good option and it gets you out into the fresh air and sunshine. You can even get creative with classes like Doga (yoga exercises you can do with your dog!).

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You’ll Do Your Heart a Huge Favor

Heart disease is still the number one killer in America — but the good news is that there are a lot of healthy lifestyle choices you can make to lower your chances of developing this problem. Apart from eating well and exercising regularly, having a pet in your life can also help your heart health.

According to the National Institute of Health, several clinical trials have been run which show that pet owners have lower blood pressure rates and lower cholesterol levels, both of which are major risk factors for heart attacks. The weight management and physical activity benefits listed above also can help your heart stay strong.

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You’ll Help Your Child’s Allergies

Okay, when you think about pet ownership, helping your child’s allergies isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. As a matter of fact, many American families have to go through the heartache of giving up a pet due to their child being allergic to it. However, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have done studies that show having a pet in the home can actually reduce a child’s chances of developing allergies to begin with.

In this study, which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, scientists stated they believe that these benefits stem from the fact that being around a pet on a daily basis can make a child’s immune system stronger. Unfortunately, this study does not apply to children who already have allergies to begin with.

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You’ll Reduce Your Depression Risk

Trying to keep the blues away naturally? Having or getting a pet can be an important part of keeping depression at bay. There are a number of reasons why several studies have uncovered a link between pet ownership and reduced levels of depression. Firstly, pets can fill your life with a sense of love and purpose. They can increase your socialization and help you make new friends (for instance, at a dog-walking park or an obedience school) and just by themselves can reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation. They also help to fulfill the human need to be touched. That is why Pet Assisted Therapy or Animal Assisted Therapy has become so popular in places like hospital or nursing homes across the country.

So if you have always suspected that your pet is an important part of your life — you are right! The animals in your life not only bring you a lot of happiness and joy, they can help you live a longer and better life.

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Brian Wu

Health Writer, Author

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Last Updated on October 23, 2018

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

My mother was a great knitter and produced some wonderful garments such as Aran sweaters which were extremely fashionable when I was young. She also knitted while my father drove, which caused great amusement. I often wondered why she did that but I think I know the answer now.

Knitting is good for your mental health, according to some research studies. The Washington Post mentions a 2013 survey of about 3,500 knitters who were asked how they felt after a knitting session. Over 80% of them said they definitely felt happier. It is not a totally female occupation as more and more men take it up to get the same benefits. Harry Styles (One Direction) enjoys knitting. So does Russell Crowe although he does it to help him with anger management!

The Neural Knitwork Project

In Australia, Neural Knitworks was started to encourage people to knit and also become aware of neuroscience and mental health issues. Knit-ins were organized but garments were not the only things created. The knitters produced handmade neurons (1,665 of them!) to make a giant brain. The 2015 project will make more neural knitted networks (neural knitworks) and they will be visible online. You can see some more examples of woolly neurons on the Neural Knitworks Facebook page.

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While people knitted, crocheted and crafted yarn, they listened to experts talking about mental health issues such as addiction, dementia, depression, and how neurons work.

The knitting and neural connection

The human brain has about 80 billion neurons. Learning new skills, social interaction, and physical activity all help to forge neural connections which keep the brain healthy and active. They are creating networks to control movement and make memories. The knitters learn that as they create the woollen neurons, their own neurons are forming new pathways in their brains. Their creations are mimicking the processes in their brains to a certain extent. At the same time, their brains are registering new and interesting information as they learn interesting facts about the brain and how it works. I love the knitworks and networks pun. What a brilliant idea!

More mental health benefits from knitting

Betsan Corkhill is a physiotherapist and has published some results of completed studies on her website, appropriately named Stitchlinks. She conducted some experiments herself and found that knitting was really helpful in reducing panic and anxiety attacks.

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“You are using up an awful lot of brain capacity to perform a coordinated series of movements. The more capacity you take up by being involved in a complex task, the less capacity you have for bad thoughts.”- Betsan Corkhill

Knitters feel happier and in a better mood

Ann Futterman-Collier, Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University, is very interested in how textile therapy (sewing, knitting, weaving and lace-making) can play an important role in mood repair and in lifting depressive states.

She researched 60 women and divided them into three different groups to do some writing, meditating and work with textiles. She monitored their heartbeat, blood pressure and saliva production. The women in the textiles group had the best results when their mood was assessed afterwards. They were in a better mood and had managed to reduce their negative thoughts better than those in the writing and meditation groups.

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“People who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a ‘stressor’.” – Dr. Futterman Collier

The dopamine effect on our happiness

Our brains produce a chemical called dopamine. This helps us to feel happy, more motivated, and assists also with focus and concentration. We get a boost of dopamine after sex, food, exercise, sleep, and creative activities.

There are medications to increase dopamine but there are lots of ways we can do it naturally. Textile therapy and crafting are the easiest and cheapest. We can create something and then admire it. In addition, this allows for a little bit of praise and congratulations. Although this is likely not your goal, all these can boost our dopamine and we just feel happier and more fulfilled. These are essential in facing new challenges and coping with disappointment in life.

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“Sometimes, people come up to me when I am knitting and they say things like, “Oh, I wish I could knit, but I’m just not the kind of person who can sit and waste time like that.” How can knitting be wasting time? First, I never just knit; I knit and think, knit and listen, knit and watch. Second, you aren’t wasting time if you get a useful or beautiful object at the end of it.” – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.

If you thought knitting and textiles were for old ladies, think again!

Featured photo credit: DSC_0012/Mary-Frances Main via flickr.com

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