Walking is great for your health, including when you’re older, and having a dog is a great impetus for getting out there and walking. In fact, in a study of older adults, dog walking was associated with lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits, fewer limitations to daily living and more frequent moderate and vigorous exercise.2 “The relationship with one’s dog may be a positive influence on physical activity for older adults,” the researchers concluded, and they weren’t the first to do so.
In the study of 1,570 peopled aged 60 years or over, owning a dog was associated with a 3.34 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure.
Dr. Ragavendra Baliga, a cardiologist and professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, told The Columbus Dispatch, “To put that into perspective, even a 2 mm reduction in systolic blood pressure is associated with a 6 percent reduction in stroke, a 4 percent reduction in coronary heart disease and a 3 percent reduction in overall mortality.”3
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also states that pets can decrease your blood pressure and triglyceride levels,4 while the American Heart Association has stated that pets may help reduce your risk of heart disease. Pets’ benefits to health extend beyond the physical into the emotional realm as well.
One of the greatest benefits is that pets help you stay focused on the present moment, providing a focal point for your attention and helping to provide a routine to your day, something that many miss following retirement. They can also help you overcome loneliness and act as social icebreakers, facilitating new friendships.