Anti Ageing Benefits of Pets
We all know that having pets can be very good for you, with studies showing that they provide a range of health and emotional benefits. These benefits start early on – research at the University of Warwick shows that children with pet dogs or cats have stronger immune systems than children without pets – and are especially important as you age, with pets helping to keep you active, to reduce stress and loneliness and maintain contact with others in the community.
Stroking Your Way to Good HealthScientific studies have shown that stroking your dog, cat, rabbit or other cuddly pet can help to lower your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. High blood pressure has been shown to be associated with a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease so having a pet who has a positive influence on your heart rate and blood pressure is very good for your health and in providing general anti-ageing benefits.
In fact, one study found that the survival rates of heart-attack victims were much higher among pet owners than non-pet owners. This could be from therapeutic benefits of pets during the recovery (see below on the effects of oxytocin) but could also be due to the fact that pet owners are often in generally better health before the incident.
The action of stroking, massaging and grooming also releases oxytocin, a hormone which acts in the brain to reduce anger and fear, and promote feelings of peace and contentment. Oxytocin has a strong ability to counteract stress, involved as a cause in most diseases and illnesses; it is also Nature’s anti-depressant and anti-anxiety hormone. Research suggests that oxytocin is the reason why people with pets tend to recover more quickly from illness.
Pets and ExerciseHaving a pet definitely keeps you more active, especially if you have a dog which will give you the most important benefit of a daily walk. Better than that expensive and often lapsed gym-membership, having a dog means that you get into a routine of exercise every day and you can never make an excuse to skip a class, like you might do with the gym, because those pleading brown eyes (or hyperactive monster with pent-up energy) will force you to get out there in the fresh air, rain or shine! Having a dog also often means that you will have more opportunities and get involved in more outdoor activities.
Social and Emotional Benefits of PetsEveryone with a dog knows that they are fantastic social lubricators, often helping you to break the ice, strike up conversation and make new friends whenever you are out walking in the park or around your neighbourhood. Even cats and other pets can have similar benefits as you might meet similar pet owners and join in some pet-related activity or club.
Social contact and membership plays an important role in preventing loneliness and depression and in relieving stress, especially as we age and experience life changes affecting health or social situations.
Pets themselves also provide emotional support – offering unconditional love and friendship – and helping you improve your feelings of confidence and self-esteem. This in turn feeds into other areas of your life and help to reduce stress levels overall, an key contributor to many illnesses and disorders.
In fact, pet programmes have been shown to be superior in producing psychosocial benefits in comparison to some other alternative therapies, such as arts and crafts programs and conventional psychotherapy.
Naturally, having a pet is a personal choice dependent on your specific circumstances and you should never get a pet, especially a high-maintenance type pet like a dog, if you do not have sufficient time to commit to caring for it properly – otherwise, this is more likely to drive your stress levels up! But for those who are in the lucky position to have a pet and who enjoy animal company, you will be delighted to know that they will reward you with many anti-ageing benefits.