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Burn the Ships

Jan 11th 2014 at 4:04 AM

Petting a cat can lower your cortisol levels, walking the dog can help your fitness, improve your heart health, and lower your blood pressure. Kitty and Fido clearly have their place in improving your overall health. For thousands of years, people have owned pets. It is only within the last 50 years however, that we are starting to understand the bond between and pet and its owner, and how that bond will promote the health for the owner who cares for their companion animal. Science is beginning to recognise that having a companion animal is one of the keys to longevity, and that is also has a host of benefits for a variety of people with disabilities and chronic diseases. Pets increase the bond between families, and help to improve each member of the family's general overall health. In a modern society with a multitude of hours of screen time, it has been recommended in many scientific studies that people reduce the number of hours that they are sedentary, and take up more physical exercise.

This particularly applies to children, who are spending more time in front of a screen than they were several decades ago. A study done by Morrison and colleagues, available at PubMed, clearly shows a correlation between pet ownership, and a promotion of the number of hours of physical activity done by members of the family, particularly when they owned a dog, and took it walking. Parents, when exercising with their children, model healthy behaviours, and also promote the development of lifelong habits. Walking the dog together as a family is not only good for the members of the family but forms vital healthy habits throughout the lifespan of the child. If has been shown that when you people spend time with their companion animals petting them, cortisol levels are lowered (a stress hormone), and the body also increases the production of serotonin - a feel good chemical produced in the body. Pets are an excellent way therefore, of reducing stress levels and associated stress related health problems. In a study referred to on WebMD, pets were shown to improve heart health, where people who owned pets were measured as having lower blood pressure when they petted their animal, and also another cited study showed that people who owned pets had lower heart resting rates and lower blood pressure than people who did not own a pet. Pets are often used in therapy groups, and many studies have been done to provide evidence based practise for the improvement of the mental health of patients who participated in group therapy where animals were used. Pets also have been shown to promote a sense of purpose and wellbeing for people with mental health issues, because they have a sense of responsibility and affection towards another living creature, and therefore have a strong desire to improve their mental health and capacity to care for another living creature. In Pets for the Elderly, there are a number of studies listed where it is shown to greatly benefit the health and happiness of elderly people when they own a pet.

Owning a pet is shown to promote wellness and longevity amongst elderly populations. Pets are also used in therapy for children with disabilities, and there are special programs that train dogs to be disability assistance dogs. There are autism assistance dogs, dogs trained to recognise when their owner is going to have an epileptic seizure, and dogs that help people who are vision impaired to navigate their way around the community. Pets present a responsibility, but a clear host of health benefits. Pet ownership is a joy, and will also reward you with wellness and happiness. Share your life with a pet, and reap countless dividends.

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