How Fido Makes You Healthier

39% of American households have at least one pooch in them. And why not? They are fun, furry, cuddly and loving! But the best part is that being a dog owner has more benefits than just clean plates (who needs a dishwasher when Penny is around?)

Owning a dog leads to all sorts of positive benefits for your health. Here are some of the ones I appreciate the most:

1. More exercise! Walking Penny twice a day automatically leads to more steps, but more often than not, a quick walk won’t do for our high-energy Puggle. Since I sit at a desk all day, it’s great to spend my mornings and afternoons making sure Penny gets her exercise in. Some walks are longer than others, but like any form of a workout, I always want to keep going once I start. That means that often the coerced act of stepping outside with her leash in my hand leads to a good-sized jaunt.

2. Lower levels of cortisol. Everyday stresses from work, friendship drama or the state of the economy can weigh heavy on all of us. Higher secretions of cortisol as a result lead to negative health effects, including increased fat in the abdomen, lowered immunity, and even lower bone density! I don’t know about you, but when I get home from a particularly rough day at the office, and there’s a smiley (yes, my dog smiles), waggily tailed doggy waiting at my doorstep to greet me, everything else seems way less important. She is also constantly amusing us with her ridiculous antics, and everyone knows how good laughter is for diffusing stress. This is a great article that elaborates on all the different ways pets can help keep stress under wraps.

3. Better scheduling. Penny eats every day at 6:30pm. Every day at 6:15, she glues herself to your side and refuses to let you out of her sight until she’s wolfed down her food. Every morning at 6am, she gets up, ready to go. Her sense of routine is uncanny, and it helps us keep on ours too. We eat basically when she eats at night, we get up when she gets up, which ensures we don’t sleep in too long on weekends (a very good, though sometimes frustrating habit to get into!) People on schedules (read: with a plan) are much better wired to stay on track with fitness and dietary goals. Penny’s punctuality reminds us to stay on track each and every day.

4. Keeping it clean. Even though our apartment is far from spotless most of the time, we do have to keep it up in somewhat reasonable condition BECAUSE of Penny. She’s just turned four years old, but still can’t get the hang of not eating our stuff. If we leave it out, it’s fair game to wind up in her jaws. We’re still constantly striving for a cleaner home environment (because of Penny and because we just want it!), but cleaner = healthier, both mentally and physically. No more sneezing because of dust and no more stress because of clutter. Cleaning for pets means a healthier home!

5. Just plain awareness. Dogs remind you that there is someone relying on you. Someone that needs you to be responsible in a variety of ways so that he or she can survive. The awareness of this fact makes me want to take more stock in my own life. I’m sure some people feel this way about their children – that they should lose weight, eat right, be healthier, put their oxygen mask on first, etc. Sadly, this is the way I feel about my dog. But it’s good for me, because it reminds me on a daily basis to take care of myself so I can take care of her!

So there you have MY take on why Penny is so good for me. I think if we had another one, we’d be twice as healthy! Anyone? Anyone?

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