Taking your pet for a short walk outdoors seems like such a simple activity. However, a stroll with your pet can yield a host of powerful health benefits for your pet and for you. The American Heart Association summarizes some of these benefits, pointing to studies that show that pet ownership can "help increase fitness levels, relieve stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boost overall happiness and well-being." Below are eight ways taking your pet for a stroll can improve your health and well-being.
1) Keep your weight under control
"It's estimated that 1 in 3 Americans is overweight and childhood obesity is on the rise. In a study based in Seattle and Baltimore, adults who regularly walked their dogs were approximately 25% less likely to be obese than their non dog-owning neighbors. And in children, dog ownership reduced the risk of obesity by half."
- Lynn Buzhardt, DVM
The rising rate of obesity in the United States has officially been labeled a public health crisis. With roughly four in ten Americans meeting the criteria for being overweight, the focus on controlling obesity is stronger than ever. If you are among the 40 percent of Americans who are overweight, or if you simply wish to avoid falling into that category, you can help keep your weight under control by taking your pet for a walk on a regular basis. For example, a 155-pound person burns an average of 167 calories by walking 4 mph for 30 minutes.
2) Boost your levels of vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise in the United States. And insufficient levels of vitamin D can leave you at an increased risk for infection, fatigue, and bone loss. Many researchers point to lower levels of outdoor activity as a key reason why many people do not possess the recommended level of vitamin D. If you are among the 42 percent of Americans that are vitamin D deficient, you can help boost your intake of vitamin D by enjoying an outdoor stroll with your pet. Vitamin D absorption occurs through exposure to sunlight during your walk.
3) Increase your sense of safety and security
"More than 1000 dog owners from Perth, Australia and three US cities (San Diego, Nashville and Portland) were surveyed in the Pet Connections study. Almost 60 per cent of dog walkers in Australia and the US reported feeling safer when walking with their dog."
- The University of Western Australia
Researchers at the University of Western Australia (UWA) recently discovered that people who walk their dogs feel an increased sense of safety. In fact, the results of a UWA study suggest that walking through your neighborhood with your pet increases the number of opportunities for you to engage with your neighbors. Essentially, pet walkers become the neighborhood's "eyes and ears", often helping to make everyone in a neighborhood feel safer, which contributes to better health.
4) Help prevent or reduce depression to improve your health
If you are among the ten percent of Americans who struggle with depression, you can help improve your mood by going on a short stroll with your cat, dog, or bird. Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, suggests that walking and other forms of exercise "work as well as antidepressants" for some people with low to moderate levels of depression. Miller recommends starting "with five minutes a day of walking or any activity you enjoy. Soon, five minutes of activity will become 10, and 10 will become 15."
5) Enhance the quality of your sleep
A brisk afternoon walk with your pet can help prevent sleep disorders and help you improve the overall quality of your sleep. Even a short walk may help improve your sleep quality. In fact, researchers with the National Sleep Foundation discovered that a brief 10 minutes walk can significantly improve the quality of your sleep.
6) Improve relationships with neighbors
"Dog walkers were also more than three times more likely to walk in their neighbourhood, suggesting that dog walking helps you get to know your local area and neighbours."
- Dr Hayley Christian, The University of Western Australia (UWA)
The more frequently you navigate your neighborhood with your pet, the more exposure you will have to your neighbors. This increased exposure often leads to stronger relationships and an increased comfort level with neighbors.
7) Reduce your risk of certain cancers
Walking for a total of three hours per week may help reduce your risk of kidney cancer and renal cancer. Your risk of other types of cancer such as breast cancer and colon cancer can also be lowered through regular walks with your pet. Ideally, walks should be undertaken at a moderate to brisk pace several times a week.
8) Strengthen the bond between you and your pet
Regular walks with your pet provide a wonderful opportunity for you and your pet to spend some quality time together in a shared activity. By establishing a regular walking routine and sticking to it, you will likely find your pet beginning to anticipate your regular walks together. You may even notice your pet gravitating toward his or her pet stroller as your regular walking time approaches.
What is the best way for you and your pet to enjoy the great outdoors?
As outlined above, there are many benefits to taking your pet for a stroll. If you would like to take the first step on the path to improved well-being for you and your pet, consider adding a pet stroller to your collection of trusted pet accessories.
The pet stroller is custom designed to enable small pets to enjoy the great outdoors safely and comfortably. The pet stroller eliminates many of the dangers and inconveniences of walking your pet on a leash, delighting cats and small dogs who are resistant to wearing harnesses and leashes. Whether you have a cat, a rabbit, or a bird, the pet stroller offers a safe solution for pet owners seeking to spend more one on one time with their pets outdoors.