AARP Eye Center
Yes, they give you kisses when you walk through the door and offer a nonjudgmental eye when you reach for that Krispy Kreme. But caring for and loving those furry little creatures also offer a surprising range of health benefits — both physical and psychological. Among the ways having a dog can improve your life…
It keeps you in shape. Fido is right up there with Fitbit when it comes to helping us stay active. A 2017 study published in the journal BMC Public Health found that dog owners on average walked 22 minutes more per day compared to those that didn't own a pup. What's more, research published in The Gerontologist found that dog walkers had a lower body mass index, more mobility at home, fewer doctor visits and were more active in general.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
It strengthens your ticker. Dogs don't just have a hold on our heart, they can also keep it healthy by getting you on the move. Studies have shown that dog owners have a lower risk of high blood pressure, and a 2013 report issued by the American Heart Association concluded that owning a dog is most likely linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. What's more, those who own a dog are more likely to survive a heart attack.
Eases stress and depression
Research shows that interaction with animals, particularly dogs, increases oxytocin levels in humans to reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, simply looking at or petting a canine can cause the hormone to be released and soothe your psyche. “They've done studies, looking at people suffering with clinical depression, and those who have a pet tend to recover faster and need less pharmaceutical intervention,” says Natalie Marks, medical director and veterinarian at Blum Animal Hospital, in Chicago. A 2015 study, published in the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology, showed a lift in “emotional well-being and quality of life” for adults undergoing cancer treatment after visits from a therapy dog, while a 2019 study from the Indiana University School of Medicine found that 15 minutes of exposure to a therapy dog significantly lowered anxiety and depression in those being treated in emergency rooms.