The Heart-Warming Health Benefits of Having a Pet

Chelsea Miller is a model, fitness junkie, and advocate for changing the way we talk about health and curvy bodies. She writes about working out, health, her skincare obsessions, and more on her blog, Watch Her Glow, and we’re thrilled to have her as a contributor for THE/THIRTY. This month, she talks about the many ways life as a dog owner has improved her overall wellbeing.

My guess is that if you own a pet, you won’t be surprised to hear that more and more evidence is mounting to suggest that having pets has both psychological and physical benefits to your health. So if you’re on the fence about the responsibilities that come along with having a furry friend, maybe the added health benefits will help you make that decision.

There are studies that have proven pets help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and that they help to promote outdoor activities and opportunities for socialization. These are just some of the benefits, and there are many more that may be a bit more difficult to quantitatively measure. Many say that their pets keep their mood elevated, help with depression and stress relief, and boost self-esteem. I mean—need I even continue? Pets are amazing.

I grew up in a house of all kinds of pets—I’ve owned everything from snakes and lizards to bunnies and rats. But the animals that I hold closest to my heart are my two pit bulls. If I’m having an off day, feeling down or stressed, I know I can count on them to love me unconditionally and not ask any questions. There isn’t much in this world that can make me smile the way they do. They are always so happy to see me and they are the biggest goofballs I know.

But aside from them making me happy and giving me a sense of responsibility, I know that they also help keep me physically healthy. In fact, just this morning, before I knew that I’d be writing about them, I vowed to make sure I take them on a walk every single morning on my days off. I told myself and everyone following me on Instagram that if I couldn’t get myself to do it for me, then I’d do it for my dogs. They enjoy walking so much, and I believe it’s also beneficial for both their physical and mental health as well. They are keeping me accountable and they don’t even know it!

Sometimes vacations can be tricky with pets because it's hard to find someone you trust to really care for your babies the way you do. So when we can’t make that happen, we try and take them with us. My boyfriend and I will take a semi-staycation and drive a couple hours up to Santa Barbara and stay at the beach for a few days. When we bring the dogs, I’ve noticed we are much more active and we also don’t stay out as late, so I always come back feeling really well-rested.

I also used to hike alone and had a couple instances where I felt uncomfortable and even threatened by strangers on the trails. So now I love being able to take my dogs with me—they are big and can be intimidating. I know that they would protect me at all costs and that is a great sense of security for me.

So if the scientific evidence isn’t enough for you to believe that pets are good for your health, you can take it from me: My dogs make me a happier and kinder person. I am more active, and they help to make me feel more safe and secure.

Next up: Consider adopting these wellness rituals this fall.