Any LGBTQ pet owner will gladly boast about the exponential ways their furry friends makes their lives better. But experts are increasingly discovering ways in which animal encounters can actually help make people healthier.
I Think I’ll Go For a Walk Outside Now
Robert F. Kushner, M.D., clinical director of the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity in Chicago, designed a study involving overweight dog owners. Subjects were assigned a reasonable diet and advised to take more routine walks with their dogs. A separate group was given the same diet and exercise recommendations — but with no dogs. The dog owners lost more weight and were considerably more happy.
“What surprised us was how much fun the participants had,” says Kushner. “That isn’t common in a weight control program. … Many participants said they wouldn’t have stayed in the program without their dog.”
Kushner teamed up with Dr. Marty Becker on a recent book, Fitness Unleashed! A Dog Owner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together. In it, they quote Carl Foster, PhD, who states, “The American College of Sports Medicine and Centers for Disease Control recommend that you accumulate 30 minutes of physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Although simple, this is not an easy task for most people in our overscheduled, busy days. If you are a pet owner, your love for your pet can be motivation to be more active.”
From Time to Time
But even occasional contact with a pet can help relieve conditions such as depression and anxiety. Animal therapy is a practice in which patients interact with animals that have been trained to provide emotional support and engage in comforting behaviors. Though dogs are the most common therapy animals, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, and even horses can also be good candidates.
Rebecca Johnson, a nurse in charge of the Research for Human/Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, says that time spent with the animals “can lower the stress hormone, cortisol, while increasing oxytocin, prolactin, and norepinephrine — hormones related to joy, nurturing, and relaxation.”
Now that you know that having a pet can help you lose weight and feel better, consider visiting your local humane society and adopting your very own dose of furry medicine.
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Last modified: August 13, 2019