What builds strong heart muscles? Everyone knows that regular exercise is the best way to keep your heart healthy, and now the American Heart Association (AHA) is saying there may be a link between owning a pet and heart health. Most of the research is based on dog ownership, but some focusses on cats and other pets too.
According to the AHA’s website, periodic reports have been done over the last 10-15 years on the association between cardiovascular risk and pet ownership. In layman’s terms, owning a pet is associated with lowering your risk of developing heart disease. The link could be something simple, like healthier people are just more likely to own pets, but experts believe there’s more to it than that.
Pet owners, especially dog owners, tend to get more exercise than non-pet owners. Whether you have a dog, cat, horse or bunny, chances are you spend time playing with your furry companion. That means you’re getting up off the couch and getting physically active with your pet, which in turn is good for your heart.
Many people make New Year’s resolutions or set goals to be more active. It’s hard to stick to those goals when you’re doing it by yourself. When you have two big, excited eyes and a waggly tail along for your daily walk it makes things much easier. Pet parents are more likely to stick to exercise goals because they always have a partner to help them stick to the new habit.
Most of the research that has been done looks at the link between dog ownership and heart disease. It’s not surprising that dog owners who have to walk their dogs daily are more likely to meet the AHA’s recommended physical activity level than owners who don’t need to walk their pet. However, there are more dog owners that do not walk their dog than owners who must walk Fido every day.
I have to say, I add to that statistic. We live in the country on 9 acres of land and our dogs get plenty of exercise roaming around in our yard. They can do their business in the woods surrounding our home, and it is not often that we actually take them for leash walks unless we’re traveling.
The AHA also says that there is a modest amount of data available that shows the relationship between lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels and pet ownership. This data also shows that pet parents who were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease were more likely to survive a heart attack than patients who did not own a pet.
Now, just because the link between heart health and owning a pet are positive, you shouldn’t encourage anyone to adopt a pet just to become healthier.
The goal of adoption should be to provide the animal with a good, stable and loving home that can provide everything the pet will need. If you’re looking for an exercise buddy, asking a friend or neighbor would be much easier than adopting a dog – it would come with a whole lot less responsibility too!
If you’re a pet owner like me and your dog can roam freely around your yard, think of other ways to get active with your pet. The more active you are, the better it will be for the both of you. You can go hiking, biking or swimming. In fact, swimming is one of the best ways to exercise for pets and people.
Think outside the box. Exercise doesn’t strictly mean walking. You can play tug-of-war or fetch with your dog. Throw his ball and see if you can beat him to it. Obviously, that’s probably not going to happen, but you’ll get some exercise and a few laughs while trying.