When it comes to pet ownership, there are quite a number of proven emotional and physical health benefits that we have our furkids to thank for. From honing one’s social skills to lowering the risks of a heart attack, here are five benefits of playing paw-rent:

1.  Exercise & Socialise

According to News In Health (NIH), dog owners tend to get more exercise. One NIH-funded study followed the exercise habits of 2,000 people, and found that dog owners were fitter and less obese than non-dog owners.

Another study suggested that dog owners, who regularly walked their dogs, could move faster and for a longer period than those who didn't. Elderly paw-rents who walked their dogs frequently also found it easier to move around their homes.

A walk in the park with your pooch can also help you to meet new people; many pet parents even become part of social groups who get together for playdates or to celebrate doggy birthdays. This form of socialisation reduces the chances of loneliness and encourages pet parents to go out and make new friends.

2.  Character Building

As pets need constant care and support, caring for them teaches pet parents the importance of patience and commitment. Director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA, Ian Cook, also shares that taking care of pets allows owners to sense their own value and importance around themselves.

Plus, pets are a great way for children to learn about responsibility and develop a sense of compassion.

3.  Improved Heart Health 

Research conducted by the University of Minnesota showed that patients who did not have pets had a 40 percent greater chance of having a heart attack. It also found that a dog’s presence alone can be felt by humans across their cardiovascular and nervous system–which results in relaxation and a reduction in stress symptoms.

According to the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health, children who grow up around dogs are 15 percent less likely to develop atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema) and 17 percent less likely to suffer from wheezing by the time they turn three.

4.  Reduced  Anxiety

Researchers at Idaho State conducted a study: They first asked students to rank their feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Then, they brought a trained therapy dog, Sophie, to the college campus for the students to pet and play with. When asked about their negative feelings again, the students reported a 60 percent decrease.

Other researchers conducted three studies to study the effects of pets on human mental health. The results found that pet parents felt a greater sense of belonging, were better at dealing with rejection, and overall, were happier and healthier than non-pet parents.

5. Stress Reliever

After studying a dog-friendly retail business (with 450 employees that had about 20 to 30 dogs at the office on any day), researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University compared employees' stress levels when they brought their dogs to work versus leaving their pooches at home.

After the bring-your-dog-to-work days, the participants experienced a decline in stress levels and one quarter of the workers even reported an increase in productivity.

*This article was updated on 26 Jul 2020. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com on 15 Nov 2016.