This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
sored by ReCHAI, called Walk
a Hound, Lose a Pound and
Pet Lovers
Stay Fit for Seniors, one group
of older adults was matched
with shelter dogs, while an-
Live Longer
other partnered with a human
walk buddy. Participants were
encouraged to walk an outdoor
by Linda Sechrist
trail for one hour, five times a
week, for 12 weeks.
According to John-
t turns out that our quest for longevity may have a secret
son, “The older people who
weapon. Numerous research studies by universities and
walked their dogs improved
veterinary schools have turned up evidence that supports
their walking capabilities by
what most pet owners have long known—having a pet as a
28 percent. They had more
companion brings healthy side effects.
confidence walking on the trail
A British Market Research Bureau study cites the rea-
and increased their speed.” The
sons why pet owners themselves feel that their pets are good
other adults, who walked with
for them: Their animals made them laugh, offer uncondi-
humans, only had a 4 percent
tional love, provide companionship, alleviate loneliness and
increase in their walking capa-
reduce stress—all benefits which point to the relationship’s
Anyone who enjoys the companionship of an animal
The unconditional love and devotion that
already knows the facts for which science seeks proof. The
unconditional love and devotion that flow from the heart of
fl ow from the heart of a pet is good for us.
a pet is good for us.
Linda Sechrist is a freelance writer based in Naples, FL;
connect at 239-348-8222, email
life-extending qualities, and are supported by the science.
In a study by the University of Cambridge department
of clinical veterinary medicine, for example, pet owners re-
ported fewer minor health problems and increased physical
activity than the control group. The researchers expect that
these effects can be “relatively long-term.”
A study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute found that,
over a 10-year period, owning a cat dramatically reduced
an individual’s chance of dying from heart disease. Accord-
ing to Dr. Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-
Animal Bond at the Purdue University School of Veterinary
Medicine, “The health effects seem to be very real, and by
no means mystical.” Interaction with pets evidently reduces
levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, while increasing oxy-
tocin, the “love hormone,” that stimulates feelings of happi-
ness. Beck observes that, “Contact with companion animals
triggers a relaxation response.”
Medical professionals generally agree that owning a
pet helps lower blood pressure, encourages exercise and
improves psychological health. In part that’s because, “For
many people, pets also provide a reason to get moving,”
explains Rebecca Johnson, professor of gerontological nurs-
ing and director of the Research Center on Human-Animal
Interaction (ReCHAI) at the University of Missouri, Colum-
bia College of Veterinary Medicine. “How many people,”
she queries, “would actually get any exercise if it weren’t for
overenthusiastic dogs?”
Johnson even suggests that unconditional love and
acceptance from pets may help alleviate societal problems,
including widespread inactivity and obesity. In a study spon-
January 2010
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