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9 Healthy Habits Pets Can Teach Owners

4 min read

By Emily Lockhart

As the saying goes, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”

However, medical professionals claim that as pet owners we can learn a lot from our four-legged, furry friends, including these nine healthy habits inspired by the routine behaviours of cats and dogs…

1. Go for Daily Walks

Our four-legged friends benefit many ways from daily trots around the park or neighborhood. In addition to burning excess calories and managing weight, numerous studies show that getting out for a daily “w-a-l-k” can help to prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, ward of depression, and reduce the risk of breast and colon cancers as well as type 2 diabetes…and that goes double for two-legged owners!

2. Go On, Be Happy and Playful

You know you look a little ridiculous playing catch the string with your cat or wrestling with your dog, but you likely don’t care. The good news is that laughter and silly play can benefit your heart health, according to a team of cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Their research linked a healthy sense of humor to a healthy heart—proving that laughter really is the best medicine!

3. Here Fishy-Fishy

My cat careens downstairs at the hint of a can of tuna opening—a healthy nosh that humans should do more of, say researchers at Rush University. Not only are most fatty fishes high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, studies show that eating trout, salmon, and tuna once a week can lower the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s by up to 60-perecent.

4. Squeeze in a Catnap

Most cats are napping professionals. In fact, if I went to check in on my cat right at this very moment, I already know that he’d be sawing logs—a very healthy activity, according to a study from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, which monitored the catnapping habits of 24,000 participants. The study found that those who napped regularly reduced their risk of heart disease-related death by 37-percent vs. those who went strong from dawn until dusk without a brief nappy-nap!

5. Outward Displays of Gratefulness

When you come home after a long day of work, your dog likely meets you at the door wagging his tail. If you thought coming home to a happy mutt put a smile on your face, you’ll be surprised to learn that Fido’s outward display of gratefulness is good for him as well.  In fact, a joint study between psychologists at the University of California and the University of Miami found that those who showed gratitude (by recognizing the goodness in their lives) lead happier, more optimistic lives with fewer bouts of sickness and doctor’s visits.

6. Massage Does a Body Good

You can’t watch a cat get a tummy rub without buying into the power of touch.  And research from the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute, at the Miller School of Medicine, supports all of that purring. Scientists concluded that massage or touch from a loved one does the body good—by easing anxiety, boosting immune health, and lessening the symptoms of several chronic conditions.

7. Sharpen Your Focus

Have you ever watched a dog chasing a ball or a cat trying to coral a chipmunk? No matter how long it takes, cats and dogs give the mission at hand their undivided attention until they nab that ball or rodent. A research study from Stanford University points out that unlike their furry companions, humans who multitask jeopardize their focus, quality of work, and memory when juggling more than one task at a time.

8. S-T-R-E-T-C-H

It’s funny how cats and dogs look like they’re doing yoga when they stretch—so much so that there are yoga poses named after them (i.e., downward dog, cat pose). Not only does stretching feel great, regular stretching can improve flexibility, build muscle strength, expand joint range of motion, boost athletic performance, and lower the risk of injury, according to research from the Mayo Clinic.

9. Live in the Now

When Fido runs off leash on the beach, lapping at the waves with the wind in his hair, you can’t help but take inspiration from his “live in the moment” spirit. However, a group of Harvard psychologists claim that there’s a positive relationship between focus and happiness, and when our thoughts go elsewhere—we’re diluting enjoyment from the activity at hand. This means if we adopt a little bit of Fido’s attitude for living in the now, thus aligning thought and action, our overall happiness will improve.

Emily Lockhart


Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.

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