Pets are good for people. This is obvious to anyone who has enjoyed the sense of well-being that comes from petting a dog or snuggling with a cat. Now, a growing body of research is scientifically demonstrating the health benefits of having pets in our lives.
Studies have shown that elderly people who have pets have increased life expectancies. Children who live with pets may be less likely to develop asthma as adults. Interacting with pets may reduce high blood pressure.
And a paper in the January, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health reported the findings of a study that examined the relationship between having a dog and getting enough exercise. Here is a quote from the paper.
We examined the influence of dog ownership on physical activity [in a] survey of 1813 adults. [The] odds of achieving sufficient physical activity and walking were 57% to 77% higher among dog owners compared with those not owning dogs. Dog ownership was independently associated with physical activity and walking. Actively encouraging more dog walking may increase community physical activity levels. (Am J Public Health, 2008;98:66-69)
The authors of the study found that people who have dogs in their lives consistently get more exercise than people who do not. This is true even for people who walk their dog fewer than five times per week (although I strongly recommend walking your dog at least once daily).
The article also included the following quip.
If your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise — Anonymous
This study backs up a bit of wisdom I have heard on occasion: if you want an effective exercise device, do not buy a treadmill or an elliptical trainer. Adopt a dog!