DEAR MAYO CLINIC: We're thinking about getting a dog. We know they're great companions, but how are they good for your health?
ANSWER: People with dogs know the benefits of pet ownership. The unconditional love, trust and loyalty shown by your canine companions, coupled with their unbridled enthusiasm on your return home each day, is hard to put into words.
There's another plus of having a dog by your side: It improves your overall physical and mental health. Here's how.
Dogs get you moving
A notable benefit is that dogs force you to get up and move. One research study found that dog owners are more likely to report regular physical activity than people who don't own dogs.
Activities associated with dog ownership, like feeding, grooming, playing and letting them outside, all increase physical activity levels. Physical activity improves blood flow, induces muscle contraction and reduces joint stiffness.
Dogs also require regular exercise and will greet it with smiles and wagging tails. In addition to a typical walk, you can work hiking and running into your outings with your dog depending on its breed. People who regularly perform aerobic exercise have improved blood pressure, reduced blood sugar levels, better-controlled weight and a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Other studies have demonstrated that exercise can improve depression and anxiety.
Over time, exercise will help strengthen your muscles, bones and joints. You may notice that your usual route is feeling easier so you decide to stay out longer or walk up that extra hill.
When selecting a new puppy or dog, carefully consider its energy leels and exercise requirements. It's best when your lifestyle and activity levels match that of your canine buddy.
Dogs help your weight
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