If you are a new empty nester or perhaps recently retired, one of the last things you may want to do is be responsible for a pet. However, there are several benefits to owning a pet: a constant loving companion, increased exercise, improved overall health, and reduced stress.
Before writing off the idea of getting a new furry friend, consider the following health benefits of owning a pet.
Alleviation of Depression and Stress
Taking care of and loving a pet can reduce stress and lift your mood. Studies have shown that just being around an animal can decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Pets are used in therapy, and brought into some workplaces and schools, for this reason. Animals can have very positive effects on our mood, and owning one can help you stay active and less isolated, put a smile on your face, and give you a sense of responsibility.
Pets are trusted companions for a reason. Regardless of the other relationships in your life, a pet can make you feel loved and give you a sense of connectedness—something crucial for everyone.
Increased Exercise and Time Outdoors
Owning a pet can be beneficial to your overall health due to the simple fact that most require some sort of stimulation or exercise. Dogs, for example, need to be walked on a regular basis, which means dog owners are most likely getting more exercise than people without pets.
Caring for an animal can force you to get out of your house, get fresh air, and explore the outdoors—even when you don’t feel like it—allowing for great exercise that will help you stay healthy.
Improved Heart Health
Studies have shown that cat owners are 40% less likely to have a fatal heart attack; dogs and other pets may have similar benefits.
Due to stress alleviation and amount of exercise, combined with medication and other lifestyle changes, a pet can also help with hypertension by causing a decrease in blood pressure and reducing cholesterol. This results in improved heart and overall health.
Living by yourself, retiring from a lifelong career, or losing a loved one can be lonely and isolating. Being responsible for a pet can help you feel more connected. Take your dog for a walk around your neighborhood and say hello to the people you meet along the way, or go to a dog park and meet other dog owners.
A pet can add a new sense of purpose and meaning to your life and provide health benefits that let you spend more time together! For additional tips on healthy living after 55, especially in an active adult community, subscribe to our blog.