Pets love us unconditionally, which provides a range of mental health benefits, but did you know there are physical benefits of owning a pet too? These range from lowering cholesterol and increasing fitness to reducing blood pressure. Studies say these benefits save Australians $3.86 billion in health bills each year!
While some benefits are better known, like guide dogs and assistance dogs servicing mobility needs, other benefits aren’t as well known. In this article, we look at a number of these. If you’d like to share more benefits you know about, share them with us via our Facebook page.
What are the physical benefits of owning a pet?
At a purely emotional level the benefits of pet ownership have long been known. In recent years, however, science is starting to focus more keenly on what these benefits are, and showing how these happen at a biological level.
Here are some of the physical benefits of owning a pet:
- Decrease cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce triglycerides
- Lower cortisol
- Increase oxytocin
- Improve fitness
- Improve socialisation
How the physical benefits of owning a pet work
Now, let’s look at the biological factors that contribute to these benefits.
1. Do pets lower cholesterol?
Patting our companion animals, talking to them and simply knowing they’re there all help to improve our wellbeing and lower cholesterol levels. In fact, one Canadian study reported in Psychology Today several years ago stated owning a cat can lower your cholesterol just as effectively as medication. Note we certainly wouldn’t recommend stopping your meds; but combining them with a pet would be a great way forward.
2. Do pets lower blood pressure?
Pets help to keep us calm, particularly in times of stress. Studies show that pets keep us more ‘present’ and reduce our levels of anxiety, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. By regulating our mood pets also help regulate our heart rate and that can have a positive influence on blood pressure.
3. Do pets lower triglycerides?
Triglycerides and cholesterol are both lipids that circulate in the blood but they perform different functions. In healthy amounts, triglycerides store calories and release energy, whereas cholesterol helps build cells and some of our hormones. In not so healthy amounts, triglycerides can harden arteries and increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, or cause inflammation of the pancreas. Evidence shows pet owners have lower triglycerides, which researchers think is linked to an improved emotional state, reduced mental stress and fewer biological stress reactions.
4. Do pets lower cortisol levels?
Cortisol is a hormone we produce when we’re stressed. Increased cortisol can cause weight gain, insomnia, acne, muscle weakness and more. Interacting with pets has been found to lower cortisol levels and therefore reduce the chance of these issues.
5. Do cats and dogs improve oxytocin levels?
Oxytocin is a hormone we produce when we’re happy – often called the love hormone. Bonding with our assistance and companion animals causes a release of oxytocin. So the more time spent with your pet, the happier you’ll likely be.
6. Do pets improve our fitness?
Owning a pet comes with many responsibilities. From waking up in the morning to feed them, to letting them out to do their toileting, and taking them for a regular stroll. Dogs are especially known for getting us up on time – read how sleeping with your dog in bed can be good for you. These daily routines help to keep us active, healthy and fit.
7. Do pets improve our socialisation?
Improved socialisation can have a great impact on our happiness, which can help boost our immune systems and keep us strong. Not only are pets more likely to get us out of home for a walk in the park or even just down the road, but once we’re out they’re also a source of inspiration for conversations with other pet owners.
Things to consider when owning a pet
Did you know Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world, with nearly 30 million pets today? Not only do pets offer physical benefits for all us lucky pet parents, they can also improve our mental health wellness. Read our article about pets and mental health here.
If you’re getting a pet, you need to know cats and dogs can experience separation anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder as well as a range of other mental health issues. One of the most common reasons for this is choosing the wrong pet for your lifestyle or living environment. Read about important considerations for choosing a family pet to suit your household, whether you’re a family of one or 10.
It’s important to get the fit right the first time, just like your WAV, converted car, wheelchair and/or mobility scooter. Which leads us to…
Car insurance for disability parking permit holders
Hopefully the above has given you plenty of beneficial information on the value pets provide their owners. Here’s more beneficial info – Blue Badge Insurance provides up to 25% discount on comprehensive car insurance for disability parking permit holders!
We also provide value-rich wheelchair, WAV and mobility scooter insurance. Perhaps it’s time to contact us about these? Call 1300 304 802 or request a call back here.