I grew up in a country with more rainy days than sunny days, but I always enjoyed taking my dog for a walk regardless of the weather. For me, there still is no bad weather, just "inappropriate clothing" as my high school running coach called it.
I remember walking my Black Lab throughout my teenage year in the nearby woods and along winding rivers in the northern part of Germany. We had an absolute blast and most days both of us needed some serious cleaning once you got back home.
Later in life, I learned that 30 min of moderate physical activity (like walking your dog) is one of the very best things one can do to stay healthy. If you want to learn about the benefits of 30 min walking for 5 days a week you must watch this video by Dr. Mike Evans called 23.5 hours (https://youtu.be/aUaInS6HIGo).
What I did not realize back then is that the list of health benefits that can be gained from owning a dog goes well beyond just the increase in physical activity that one ideally gains. That is if you actually get your butt out of the lazy boy to take your dog for a walk - just saying!
If you are not a frequent dog walker, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Your pooch will be forever grateful, and you will also reek in some awesome benefits. But there is more. Here are 5 validated and researched health benefits for all the log lovers out there.
Health Benefit 1: Pets Reduce Anxiety, Pain and Depression
Pet therapy or animal-assisted therapy (AAT) as it’s also called, has been linked to the reduction of anxiety, pain, and depression in people with a range of mental or physical health problems. Many people can benefit from pet therapy, including patients undergoing chemotherapy, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical therapy patients working on their fine motor skills. Even some academic institutions are taking note. At Miami University, students can take advantage of pet therapy that alleviates feelings of homesickness and depression. Dogs are on call during midterms and finals when those feelings are at an all-time high. (source)
Health Benefit 2: Dog Lovers are sick less frequently
If cleaning commercials are to be believed, humanity is in the midst of a war against germs—and we shouldn't stop until every single one is dead. In reality, the amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker; since our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix of germs, our entire microbiomes messed up. Fortunately, dogs are covered in germs! Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found "dog-related biodiversity" is especially high on pillowcases). In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets. (source)
Health Benefit 3: Dogs increase your oxytocin levels
Spending time with an animal increases your level of the hormone oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone,” a neurotransmitter that increases trust and reduces fear. Oxytocin helps you and your dog bond with each other and relax, so petting your dog isn’t just pleasant, it’s physiologically beneficial to you both (source).
Health Benefit 4: Dogs Improve Moods
Numerous studies have shown that having a pet can lessen the symptoms of depression and help pet parents maintain a positive, optimistic outlook. As author and animal expert Karen Winegar noted in a 2009 interview with the New York Times, “The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can.” (source)
Health Benefit 5: Dogs can detect life-threatening health issues.
In addition to sniffing out cancer, dogs can also be trained to identify when their human counterparts experience a seizure. Or for people who struggle with severe allergies to peanuts, a dog’s extraordinary sense of smell can be used to catch that nut before their owner has a potential reaction. (source)
PLUS 6 Additional Health Benefits:
Just to round up the benefits of dog ownership, the following health benefits have also been researched and validated for dog owners. Increased Sense of Safety, decreased risk of Asthma, improved heart health, weight loss, lower blood pressure, and if you have kids they are less likely to have allergies.
Here is my Absolute Favorite Benefit:
Even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the “feel good” chemical in the brain, which is the reason why all employees should have a picture of their pet on their desk or on the wall. As a result, productivity will soar and conflicts in the workplace will go down.