KANSAS CITY – Having a pet in your life can help you stay hale and hearty, say researchers.
Owning a four-legged, furry pet would help lower blood pressure, encourage exercise and also improve psychological health.
“Pets are of great importance to people, especially during hard economic times,” said Rebecca Johnson, associate professor from University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI).
“Pets provide unconditional love and acceptance and may be part of answers to societal problems, such as inactivity and obesity,” she added.
In a study sponsored by ReCHAI, ‘Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound and Stay Fit for Seniors’, a group of older adults were matched with shelter dogs, while another group of older adults were partnered with a human walk buddy.
For 12 weeks, participants were encouraged to walk on an outdoor trail for one hour, five times a week.
“The older people who walked their dogs improved their walking capabilities by 28 percent,” said Johnson.
“They had more confidence walking on the trail, and they increased their speed.
“The older people who walked with humans only had a 4 percent increase in their walking capabilities.
“The human walking buddies tended to discourage each other and used excuses such as the weather being too hot,” she added.
The researchers will explore the many ways animals benefit people of all ages during the International Society for Anthrozoology and Human-Animal Interaction Conference in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 20-25.
“Research in this field is providing new evidence on the positive impact pets have in our lives,” said Johnson.
“This conference will provide a unique opportunity to connect international experts working in human-animal interaction research with those already working in the health and veterinary medicine fields.
“A wonderful array of presentations will show how beneficial animals can be in the lives of children, families and older adults,” she added.