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Why having a dog is good for your health

Owning a dog may help you to live longer

Did you know that owning a dog is good for your heart?

Australian researchers have found that dog owners typically walk for 40 minutes more a week than people who don’t own a dog. 

That puts them well on the way to achieving the 150 minutes of physical activity a week recommended for good health, say the researchers from the University of Western Australia.

Regular walking improves cardiovascular fitness, which makes you less likely to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. And if you have heart disease, physical activity is important to help you manage it, says the Heart Foundation. 

The Heart Foundation says physical activity can help prevent and manage more than 20 diseases, including some cancers, type 2 diabetes and depression.

There are other benefits as well. If you get regular physical activity, it’s likely you will feel more energetic, have stronger bones and muscles, and feel happier and more relaxed. 

Dogs, and cats for that matter, also tend to have a calming effect on their owners. Part of this is the power of touch, with several studies showing that your blood pressure goes down when you stroke a pet.

Dog walking tips:

  • Keep your dog on a lead, unless you are in a designated off-lead area.
  • Ensure you have control over your dog and that it won't pull you over or harm you in any way.
  • Start slowly. As you get more used to walking, you can try increasing your pace and the length of the walk. Once you are confident, you can try for 30-minute walks five times a week.
  • Avoid walking in extreme heat.
  • Take fresh water for you and your dog to drink.

If you would like to look at other ways to get more exercise into your week, book an appointment to see your GP.

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