Is Getting A Dog The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Health?

Photo: Shannon Aston

Ever feel like health news is too overwhelming, fast-paced, or hard to decipher? Us too. Here, we filter through the latest in integrative health, wellness trends, and nutrition advice, reporting on the most exciting and meaningful breakthroughs. We’ll tell you exactly what you need to know—and how it might help you become a healthier and happier human.

If you're a dog owner—or even just a dog person—you know firsthand how much joy a furry friend can bring into your life. I mean, who doesn't love endless affection, companionship, loyalty, and sloppy kisses?

Luckily, the benefits of having a dog don't end there; for example, we know that having a dog is great for controlling our stress levels, lowering our blood pressure, and can even decrease the risk of asthma in children. And now a new study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, revealed that having a dog can make you more active—especially on days that you'd normally be sedentary.

How can getting a dog keep me active?

This study evaluated data on the weather and the physical activity of over 3,000 participants for seven days. Unsurprisingly, they found that dog walkers were more active than non-dog owners in general. But surprisingly, the results also showed that the average dog walker was less sedentary on days with poor weather than non-dog owners were on even the nicest days. This means that, most likely, your friend with the cute Labradoodle named Charlie is consistently more active than your friend without a dog, even if much about the rest of their lives is the same.

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So, what does this mean for me?

According to the researchers, this means that getting a dog is a great way to motivate yourself to stay active, particularly on those cold winter days when you're at risk for staying in bed watching Netflix. Results showed that on days with the worst weather conditions, people who walked their dogs were 20 percent more active, which translated into about 30 more minutes of physical activity each day. And while this might not seem like much to someone young and active, the implications of this are huge when it comes to preventing illnesses related to a sedentary lifestyle—like heart disease and stroke—as we age. Thanks, Charlie!

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