1. More walking, more sweating, more panting
Picture this. You’re snuggled up under the covers, arms wrapped around your favorite Target body pillow, when your alarm goes off…birdsong. You try to press the snooze button, but your dog doesn’t want to snooze.
Whether he or she sleeps with you, on the floor, in a crate, or in their own Target bed, the day has certainly begun. So, what choice do you have? You slide into those raggedy slippers and grab the leash. Cleaning up a rancid yellow or brown accident is far more intimidating than a quick stroll around the block.
Most dog owners take their precious pooch on a walk two times a day; once in the morning and once at night. If training a puppy or working close by, the owner may pop in over lunch as well. That being said, dog owners walk an average of 22 more minutes per day than everyone else, gaining roughly 2,700 more steps.
I bet all those Fitbit junkies would love to hear that. And it’s not just any walk. Depending on the size and breed of the dog, the walk can be quite brisk, getting the owner’s heart rate up in no time. A 60-pound Pit Bull will probably give its fresh-out-of-college girl more of a workout than a Pomeranian to a trophy wife.
Our goal, as believers in a pudgy-free America, is to reach 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, and dog owners are 34 percent more likely to achieve that goal than non-dog owners. The sad part? Only an estimated 50 percent of Americans get that much exercise every week.
Furthermore, obesity in teens between the ages of 12 and 19 has quadrupled since 1980, rising from 5 percent to 20.5 percent. We need to find more creative ways of getting these teens off of their favorite YouTuber channels all evening.
In a study done at the University of Virginia, teens from dog-owning families proved to be more physically active than teens from families without a dog. So it wouldn’t hurt to drag your entitled, lazy teenager to the adoption center this weekend.
2. Getting Outside Of Yourself
Some people are naturally adept to meeting strangers without profusely sweating. Some people flutter in and out of every social scenario with ease. Other people ignore a phone call and then text, “What’s up?” They force themselves to take classes at the gym because they can’t bear the thought of maneuvering around the free weights with judgmental stares.
Fortunately, dogs are known to help steer people out of social isolation or shyness that they may feel or experience at the park, gym, conversing with neighbors, or getting involved in the community.
They are an instant conversation starter.
You may have to apologize for your dog’s impressive display of humping, or you may catch someone else’s Kong ball and discuss how you both think the brand is overpriced.
Besides nudging us out of our comfort zone, dogs give us a strong sense of companionship, which leads to lower rates of depression and stress. Playing and frolicking around with our pets increases the hormones serotonin and dopamine, which improves our memory and concentration.
In terms of coming home after a long day at the office, one in three dog owners said walking their dogs in the evening allowed them to de-stress. It’s also a good moment to disconnect, to unplug yourself from the world. Leave your phone on the table and just take your leash and your buddy.
The smell of rainy grass and a freshly laid turd are sure to help you get closer to nature and farther from that passive aggressive comment your boss made earlier.
And as we look out for our future generations, let’s remember that children who experience caring for a dog at a young age have higher levels of empathy and self-esteem. So with a little support from canines, our children can be not only skinnier, but happier too.
3. Hardly ever having to see your doctor
Exposure to dirt and allergens can actually be a good thing, building the immune system and preventing future health issues. Because animals drag in all sorts of grime, the children who surround themselves with dogs are exposed to more dirt and are therefore less likely to suffer from diseases and common illnesses.
Even children who come from a family with a history of allergies are less likely to develop asthma and eczema if they grow up around a pet right at birth. So, bring on the filth.
From children to old people, dogs can aid with post-surgery recovery and give a better survival rate to post-heart attack victims. Researchers noted that patients who regularly petted a dog after surgery needed about 50 percent less pain medication than other people during the recovery period.
Being around a therapy dog or owning a dog after surgery is now a suggestion for people suffering from fibromyalgia. Male pet owners have less signs of heart disease than males without pets. This is due to the fact that more exercise (from walking a dog) lowers the risks of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes.
More impressively, the National Institutes of Health found that dog owners had a better one-year survival rate after experiencing a heart attack than non-dog owners. This could probably be accredited to those 2,700 extra steps a day. Otherwise, these people could just be sitting on the couch with Chick-fil-A.