4 Reasons a Pet Is Good for You

Pets are proven to up their owners’ fitness quotient – they’re adorable activity monitors that can help us move more. And yes, this applies to more than just dog owners. Here's how.

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Why a pet is good for you
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Why owning a pet or being around a pet is so good for you

Those big brown puppy dog eyes, fixated on the leash by the door, can be just the nudge you need to go for a much-needed walk. And that seemingly sedentary cat that requires her meals on a prompt schedule can help you nail down your own daily routine, including regular runs and trips to the gym. In short, pets are excellent exercise motivators. Here are a few ways that pets of all kinds can be good for your fitness.

(Here’s why a dog is good for your heart.)

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pets are good for your health
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Animals elevate activity

Downward dog takes on a whole new meaning when you can take your pooch with you to yoga class. “Doga” has had a moment over the past several years, with classes and pop-up experiences across the country, but there may be a new animal on the mat. Goat yoga involves dwarf breeds of goats in special sessions designed to encourage people to move, breathe and have fun, says Melina Morsch, a certified yoga instructor and founder of Fox Den Goat Yoga, based in Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON. “There is something very special about goats,” she says. “They have this ability to create this calm, still and loving energy with people.” Clients loosen up in the presence of their cloven-hoofed classmates, smiling more and even trying new poses specifically so that the goats will climb on them, she says.

(Here are the best dog breeds for kids.)

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Why a pet is good for you
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Dogs walk you

According to a 2019 British study published in Scientific Reports, dog owners are four times more likely than other people to meet today’s physical activity recommendations. That’s because while your gym buddy might be OK with you skipping your early-morning spin class on the regular, Fido will demand to be walked daily. In fact, researchers found that dog owners spend close to 300 minutes a week walking with their dogs – that’s roughly 200 minutes more than people without pooches. Plus, they are more likely to do other activities without their dogs to improve their physical fitness, including cycling and jogging.

Fun fact: A 2019 poll, conducted by PetSmart, surveyed 800 Canadian dog owners from across the country and found, on average, that the typical daily dog walk covers about 13.5 blocks – that adds up to some 83 kilometres walked with Fido in a year!

(See how many minutes you need to walk for a mood-boost.)

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pets are good for your health
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Pets promote routine

Not every variety of pet can move with us like a dog or even a cat, but that doesn’t mean your critter isn’t giving your fitness tracker a boost. The routine of pet ownership, whether it’s feeding a fish, clean-ing a hamster cage or caring for another type of critter, demands a certain amount of dedication that can be extended to other areas of your life, like the gym. People with pets might be better at making and maintaining commitments and be more likely to stick to their spin or HIIT class schedule.

(Here’s how much owning a cat costs.)

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pets are good for your health
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Pets remind you to play (and chill)

There’s something about spending time outside with your dog, zip-ping around the park or even curl-ing up on the couch with your cuddly cat. Our furry companions encourage us to move and relax, and both do a body good. What’s most special is the way that animals can encourage us to not just move but also do so with joy and wonder. “Goat yoga captures the feeling we had as children, being able to play our favourite gym activity,” says Morsch. “It makes people fall in love with exercise again and remember that physical activity is supposed to be fun.”And then there’s the chill factor. “I tell folks to allow themselves to be silent in their thoughts in the presence of their pets,” says Morsch. “I tell them to stop their minds from planning, organizing, judging, regretting, anticipating and recalling and just observe the sheer joy that an animal has in movement. And know that they share that feeling as well.”

Next, learn why you should consider adopting an older dog.

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