• Adopting a dog can have positive effects on your health: it can reduce the risk of developing certain ailments and help with your self-image.
  • First, dogs (and other pets) can have a positive influence on heart health; researchers say this is mostly due to the physical activity necessary to taking care of a dog.
  • Adopting a dog could also help you lower blood pressure—this is due to the physical activity as well as the calming effects dogs can have on humans.
  • Additionally, a dog can help improve self-image: your child’s, in particular. Research shows that having a pet dog can help kids to develop a positive self-esteem.
  • Adopting a dog might also lead to fewer doctor’s visits in your mid to late 60s: 30% less visits than individuals without a dog.
  • Finally, a dog can help you reach your physical goals: a study from Michigan State University found that people who walked their dogs were more likely to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity.

While many people rarely need any convincing to help out a dog in need, it might interest you to know that adopting a dog also comes with some personal health benefits for you! Here are 5 ways adopting a dog can improve your mental health:

1. Adopting a dog could lower your risk of heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), owning a pet­—a dog in particular—could help lower your risk of heart disease. Dr. Glenn N. Levine, a cardiologist with the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Administration Medical Center in Houston and lead author of new research by the AHA, which looked into the influence of pets on heart health, explains: “Over the last decade or so, there have been periodic reports on the association between pet ownership and cardiovascular risk. Not surprisingly dog owners who walk their dogs are more likely to achieve the recommended level of physical activity.” So, as long as you walk your dog (as you should), your heart health will benefit.

2. It could lower your blood pressure, too.

Several studies have also shown that dog owners have a lower blood pressure, compared with those who do not own a dog. Researchers say this is likely due to the combined effects of feeling calm and comforted by their pet, as well as getting more physical exercise than others. Additionally, studies show that even just petting a dog can lower blood pressure.

3. Adopting a dog can help your child develop a positive self-image.

Studies have shown that kids who grow up with pets tend to learn responsibility, compassion, and empathy from having a dog. The love and companionship provided by a loyal dog can make the child feel important and help them to develop a positive self-image. Additionally, children who are emotionally attached to their dog tend to be better at building relationships with others. Lastly, kids who grow up with dogs also have a smaller risk of developing allergies and asthma.

4. Doing so can lead to fewer doctor visits.

The Public Library of Science (PLOS) published research that studied important differences between pet owners and non-pet owners, specifically how owning or not owning a pet might influence health outcomes. The researchers determined that dog owners over the age of 65 had 30% less doctor visits than those without dogs. You might not be in your 60s now, but one day you will be, and a furry companion can help you stay on top of your health.

5. Adopting a dog can help you reach your physical goals.

It’s pretty simple: your dog needs to go for a walk at least a couple times a day, and you can benefit from it too. A study by researchers from Michigan State University found that people who owned and walked their dogs were more likely to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity. It showed that people who walked their dogs typically walked around an hour longer each week than those who did not walk dogs each week. Additionally, these individuals had higher overall levels of moderate as well as vigorous physical activity.

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