There is no denying that pet companionship does wonders to the human body, mind and soul.
Dog companion is found to help build self-esteem and mental alertness tremendously amongst the seniors. It also provides an invaluable relationship that reduce loneliness, something very common among the aging community.
Not limited to just mental and emotional aspects, there are many health benefits to the physical body too, all derived from the simple act of – walking your dog.
4 Health Benefits Derived from Walking Your Dog
1. Increase Physical Fitness
Walking is a fantastic exercise. It is low impact and you can do it anywhere without any equipment, which is why it makes for the perfect exercise for seniors.
Safer with lower risk of injury, daily walks ensure an elderly stay active and mobile. Over time, this helps strengthen the muscles, bones and joints, thereby keeping the body healthy and strong.
The thing is, just like any workout programs, doing it regularly and consistently is often the real challenge most of the time. There will be days where you’ll feel lazy or just want to procrastinate because you know, exercising regularly requires a high level of dedication.
With a dog, this challenge can almost be eliminated because well, your dog simply won’t let you. Right on dot every time of the day, your four-legged friend will be wagging their tail at the front door, jumping and scurrying about urging you to get outside. They will be so excited, you cannot skip even a day, rain or shine.
So yes, dogs make for the best training partner/coach all in one – they ensure you get your daily dose of exercise to stay fit and healthy.
2. Improve Mental Health
On the same note, the body releases serotonin and dopamine (healthy hormones that improve the mood) when one exercises.
A lot of seniors actually suffer from depression as a result of loneliness and isolation. Having a dog is a game-changer in this case because first, they get companionship. The non-judgemental and unconditional love offered by a dog do wonders to the mental health – it increases self-esteem and eases the feeling of loneliness.
More apparent though, is that a dog works as a great motivator to getting the exercise one needs to alleviate symptoms of depression. For people struggling with depression, they may experience physical fatigue so even though they know that exercise is a powerful antidepressant, they find it challenging to actually do it.
But when there is a dog giving you puppy eyes begging to go for a walk, it forces you to go outdoors and that’s one very important first step taken. It starts a long chain of positive effects that come with physical activity (i.e. endorphins released in the brain energize and create positive feelings), thereby beating signs of depression, anxiety, stress and even PTSD.
In any case, walking a dog daily helps distract one from negative thoughts. It aids in the loneliness department too because dog-walking often leads to conversations with other dog owners, therefore helping a senior stay socially connected to others.
3. Better Sleep Quality
Just like how your dog will pass out at home after a long walk, you too will benefit from your daily dog walks.
Do not think that a mere walk will not do much – studies have found that just 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise (something easily achievable from walking your dog) will help you achieve deeper, more restful sleep. Not just the quality, but the amount that you sleep too.
You see, many elders actually do not get enough sleep. This will increase the risk of developing conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, not to mention the negative impacts it has on one’s mental health.
So yes, walking your dog will again make sure that you get adequate exercise to overcome the harmful cycle of inactivity and poor sleep.
4. Reduced Risk of Disease
Dog walking also reduces risk of developing diseases common to the old age, namely, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
When one is inactive, the heart finds it difficult to pump blood efficiently through the body. This is a situation commonly observed among seniors and it could lead to blockage and serious health issues like heart failure and coronary heart disease down the road.
Regular exercise lowers the chance of that happening and helps maintain your cardiovascular health. Again, walking your dog gives you just that. Why, just the mere act of stroking and patting your dog can already reduce the physiological indicators of stress!
We know there are a lot of seniors who suffer from mobility issues. Do not let that stop you from doing such a wonderful activity. Engage the help of a carer – they can hold or even wheel you around – just get outside and experience the peace and joy of seeing your dog walk and run around. It does wonders to the mental health, trust us.
In any case, just getting some fresh air is much better than sitting indoors and do nothing. A carer can keep you company and you will have someone to talk to, eliminating the sense of loneliness.
All in all, dog walking poses a series of benefits to your health (probably a lot more than you ever thought of!) so we highly encourage that you do so regularly. Also, you are not the only one who benefits from these daily walks – your dog will thank you for the exercise, too!