Want to get more active or improve your mental health? Get a dog.
According to a 2019 study I read in the journal Animals titled The Buddy Study, participants who fostered (or acquired) a dog for more than 6 weeks reported increased physical activity each day (>2000 steps/day) and moved 20 more minutes each day than before the study.
"Increases in the range of 1000–2000 steps/day have been associated with reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality and the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults accumulate 150 minutes/week to improve health and prevent chronic disease."
Many Buddy Study participants also decreased sedentary time by >45 min/day. Australia’s government recommends that adults minimize the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting and break up long periods of sitting as often as possible. Other studies have found this benefit as well. One large study found that dog ownership was associated with a lower likelihood of being sedentary for ≥8 hours/day among postmenopausal women. Other studies examining sedentary time in older adults found that dog ownership was associated with an average of 21 fewer minutes of sedentary time/day.
At the end of the six-week foster period, most participants who fostered a dog reported decreases in depressive symptoms. These participants reported increased joy, fun, and companionship, which may explain improvements in mood.
Many participants reported meeting someone new because of their foster dog. Dogs have proven to be great social facilitators which may be one of the most important health benefits of dog ownership given the powerful influence of social relationships, or lack thereof, on human health and longevity.
I have suffered from PTSD from the military for years. While in my lowest depths of depression, I adopted Shorin Ryu, my Borador (part Bordie Collie part Labrador). Before this I never understood why people loved their dogs so much. They even called them family! As I raised Shorin my life continued to improve. I was forced to move because he needed fed, watered, pottied, walked and human interaction. I went from laying in my bed weeks on end to not just moving around the house, but also getting outside more and meeting new people. He became my trusted friend and companion. Shorin is a member of our family and I now understand why others feel the same. We have been through a lot together. He loves me unconditionally and I can trust him 100% of the time, where humans have proven time and again to be untrustworthy.
This article provides scientific proof that this phenomenon between dogs and humans leads to improved physical and mental health. I highly encourage you to foster a dog or aquire a dog if you can. You are important and you deserve to be your best possible self. Dogs are a gift and have the ability to bring so much joy and happiness to our lives.
Thank you for reading my blog. Feel free to call or message me if you want to take that first step in dog ownership or fostering. I can guide you through the process. Our local shelter has so many loving dogs (and cats) that need homes. What a win win situation!
Potter, K.; Teng, J.E.; Masteller, B.; Rajala, C.; Balzer, L.B. (2019). Examining How Dog ‘Acquisition’ Affects Physical Activity and Psychosocial Well-Being: Findings from the BuddyStudy Pilot Trial. Animals. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090666