Can Pets really improve our Health

I finally did it, about a year ago I got my first dog, a Doberman Pinscher.  As a kid I grew up admiring the breed – I thought they were beautiful dogs, the sleek black and brown lines are precise.  I know, just because I have one I think she is the prettiest, you are correct – isn’t that the case with any dog owner?  As a kid I grew up with a boxer, another one of my favorite breeds.  So I finally grew up and said ok – I am ready to be a dog dad.  So we got Marley when she was 6 weeks old – the first two weeks I got no sleep – now Marley is just over a year old and close to 75 lbs and she is growing such a cool personality.  It’s been fun coming home in the evenings and taking her on walks.  Yes this picture is a chair that she destroyed so we put a cover over it so she could sleep 🙂 ‘ Can you say spoiled’marley

Seeing how I spend a lot of my time promoting health and wellness I started to do a lot of research within the pet space.  I came across some astonishing numbers as man’s best friend is battling one of man’s worst enemies — obesity. Up to 50% of dogs in the U.S. weigh too much. Like people, overweight dogs are at risk for health problems, from arthritis to heart disease. Research suggests people who exercise with their dogs are more likely to stick to a fitness program – The key is finding activities you both enjoy.

pet healthDogs can improve physical fitness.

The Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog owners are more likely to reach their fitness goals than those without canine companions. Researchers at Michigan State University found that dog owners are 34  percent more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners. The study also found that owning a dog promotes health and fitness even after you take your pup for a stroll, increasing leisure-time physical activity by 69 percent.

 

Not only are dog walkers getting more exercise, they’re getting better quality exercise (walking faster and possibly covering more mileage), than people who simply walk or run on their own. Dog walkers are also more likely to stick to their fitness plans than those who walk with other humans or alone.

 

Dog-owning families often promote physical activity within the household, shows a study from the University of Virginia, which found that teens from dog-owning families are more physically active than teens whose families don’t own a pet dog. With rising rates of childhood obesity, owning a dog might give kids incentive to get out of the house and spend more time outside, leading to better fitness levels—thereby lowering the incidence of disease—later in life.

dog_socialDogs can improve mental health and social relationships.

Researchers at Central Michigan University found that when a dog is present in a collaborative group setting, group members rank their teammates higher in terms of trust, team cohesion and intimacy.

 

Being close with a dog helps improve human relationships. Studies find that owning and walking a dog increases social interaction. Dogs help ease people out of social isolation or shyness, says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta.

 

Children who experience caring for a dog have higher levels of empathy and self-esteem than children without pet dogs, shows child psychologist Robert Bierer. And children who practice reading to a dog see a 12 percent improvement in reading skills over a 10-week period when compared to children who didn’t read to a dog (who showed no improvement).

So I started to do some research on types of activities:

  1. Brisk walking is an ideal exercise for human and hound. The benefits include a stronger heart, lower blood pressure, more energy, denser bones, and a lower risk of depression. In dogs, regular walks can also reduce common behavior problems. There’s no set rule for how far or how long a dog should walk.
  2. Frisbee offers a classic canine workout. You can play a relaxed game in your own yard or join a formal “Disc Dog” team. Participating in competitions may give you and your dog greater motivation to practice regularly. Competitions give you a goal to work toward. They give you motivation to keep exercising, while working on your training and your relationship with your pet.
  3. If your area offers hiking opportunities, you’ve got one lucky dog. Most dogs love to go out and find new smells and see other animals while spending time with their owner. Like walking, you’ll need to keep a brisk enough pace to elevate your heart rate.
  4. To offer a chance for off-leash play, find a local dog park. Off-leash running and playing lets your dog set his own pace, so he can burn energy, then rest when he’s tired. Other perks include the chance to socialize and the mental stimulation that comes with unfettered exploration. Dog owners also get a workout trying to keep up with their pets.
  5. Fetching a ball or favorite toy over and over can be great exercise for your dog. But it doesn’t do much for you, if you’re just standing there tossing. Instead, make a game of fetch part of your home workout routine. Do lunges or abdominal crunches as you throw the ball. You might build more muscle by throwing a heavy ball, but a soft, lightweight toy is safest for your dog’s mouth

So I guess the point is ‘yes’ having a dog can improve your health in more ways than one.  Since I have been researching this market I have been meeting a lot of great organizations and learning more about fitness opportunities and I have run across a lot of innovation.  So it got me thinking, the platform that I initially developed for the Running Series to reward people for their accomplishments, why not do the same thing for pets.

So I decided to launch a new community on my platform to promote and encourage pet fitness – its in its infancy but I challenge you to join, add a profile of your dog, track their activities and earn points.  I will be offering a challenge very soon with a prize for the most active dog – so help me spread the word, they are counting on us 🙂

You can visit the community by clicking -> PetsRfit2

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