New Year, New You: Having a dog can help improve physical, mental fitness

When it comes to having a happier, healthier 2020, is a pet your best bet?

FOX 11's Rita Garcia spoke with veterinary surgeon Dr. Courtney Campbell and his furry friend Pinto. They told her that interacting with cuddly creatures can improve your year in lots of different ways, starting with physical fitness. 

Researchers at Michigan State University found that dog owners are 34 percent more likely to fit in 150 minutes of walking per week than non-dog owners. Owning a dog also increases leisure-time physical activity by 69 percent.

Another recent study from Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association, says owning a dog is linked with living longer. That study found people had a 24% less risk of dying just by having a pet alone particularly patients people who had cardiovascular disease or coronary events.

In addition to improving physical fitness, bonding with animals also helps improve mental health.

When Wendy Bauer of Santa Monica was recovering from Thyroid cancer five years ago, she had gained thirty pounds and was feeling depressed. So much so that she, “didn’t want to leave the couch.” She changed doctors, got new medication plus, her new doctor gave her an unusual prescription: suggesting she get a dog.  

Wendy fostered. then adopted Nikki from a local rescue, and according to Wendy  
“I started walking and meeting people and my life completely turned around - I had the will to live again.”

So for 2020, spending more time with a pet might be just what the doctor ordered.  

And if you aren’t ready to adopt a pet, don’t worry. Dr. Campbell has some tips: You can try a short term foster, even a short stay with a family is a great experience for the shelter pet and for you. Or, look into volunteering at a shelter or rescue, or just offer to pet sit or walk a friend’s dog to get some of the same benefits without going all in.