• Healthwise Exercise

Four Paws For A Strong Beat: How Dogs Can Benefit Heart Health

Author: Jane Sandwood


An estimated 48% of U.S. households has a dog, according to the Bark, which is good news for our health. Responsible dog owners are compelled to exercise daily to meet the needs of their furry friends, which has considerable benefits to both physical and mental health. Regular exercise has a positive impact on all elements of health, from strengthening the immune system to reducing stress, but spending time with dogs can offer particular benefits to our hearts.





Getting Active For A Healthy Heart

Dogs need regular exercise, and so does your heart. A study at Binghamton University found that walking at a moderate intensity improves cardiovascular risk factors, while research published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week, compared to 168 minutes walked by non-dog owners. Many dog owners also explore new activities with their pets, including running, cycling and swimming, all of which have a positive effect on heart health. Regular exercise also reduces the risk of obesity, which in turn has implications for heart health: obesity is linked to high blood lipids, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome, all of which can put pressure on the heart and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Daily dog walking can improve all of these risk factors, leaving us with healthy hearts and happy dogs.


A Vacation To Boost The Pet Effect



‘The pet effect’ refers to the bond between animals and humans, and is often linked with benefits to mental health. People form special relationships with their dogs, viewing them as part of the family and involving them in all aspects of their lives, from vacations to the working day. Dog owners are able to take their pets everywhere with them, which may mean they see more benefits of the pet effect than other animal owners. Spending time with our pets helps reduce stress, with studies finding that this can have a positive effect on our blood pressure. Research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine showed that subjects’ blood pressure levels were at their lowest when they were petting a dog. The blood pressure levels recorded in the study were slightly higher when participants were talking to the dog, and higher still when they were talking to the researcher. High blood pressure puts pressure on your arteries - and your heart - putting you at risk of heart disease and strokes, so taking steps to ensure that blood pressure remains at a healthy level is important: simply regularly stroking a dog could make a difference to your heart health.


Add to this that taking a vacation has been shown to have a positive impact on cardiovascular health, and you have a solid argument for taking your dog on vacation with you. Bryce Hruska and Brooks Gump of Syracuse University found that people who take more frequent vacations have a reduced risk of developing metabolic syndrome. A stressful trip, however, could have the opposite effect, so it’s important for dog owners to take the necessary precautions to ensure a dog-safe trip. When everything is organized in advance and the dog is prepared for travel, both human and dog are set up for a relaxing break, further promoting good heart health.


Psychosocial Support And Recovery



In addition to helping with the prevention of heart problems, dog ownership has been associated with recovery from cardiovascular disease. The companionship and loyalty offered by the animal is thought to motivate those recovering from a cardiovascular event on their road to recovery. Their ability to reduce stress and their need for gentle exercise are also helpful factors for those recovering from heart disease.

Dog ownership is often associated with a healthy lifestyle, simply because of the exercise the animals require. However, the benefits they can offer to heart health reach far beyond exercise, and spending time in the company of dogs can help our hearts in a holistic way.An estimated 48% of U.S. households has a dog, according to the Bark, which is good news for our health. Responsible dog owners are compelled to exercise daily to meet the needs of their furry friends, which has considerable benefits to both physical and mental health. Regular exercise has a positive impact on all elements of health, from strengthening the immune system to reducing stress, but spending time with dogs can offer particular benefits to our hearts.



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