The benefits of keeping active with your pet | Waggel | Zine

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The benefits of being active with your pet.

Woman kneeling and kissing a dogWoman kneeling and kissing a dog
When it comes to looking after our health, people tend to immediately think about exercise and diet; getting fit, cutting out carbs and looking like Joe Wicks. But what isn’t so common is thinking about it with a mental health focus, being psychologically and emotionally healthy. Both are important and play a part in our day to day lives, and both can have positive and negative effects on each other. For this article, we consulted Mind on how being active can have a positive impact on mental health, and how having a pet can help to support this.
Written by: Louis Crust
Read time: 4 min

Mental health is a topic that needs less stigma and more love. Unfortunately in this day and age, if you aren’t suffering yourself chances are you know someone who is. It is an area which is particularly close to our hearts at Waggel, and something we take very seriously. Our co-founder, Ross, recently shared his story about how his dog Sailor helped him overcome mental health issues while our partnerships manager, Emma, discussed how her extra-special good boy helped with her mental and physical health.

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Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities,
can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
World Health Organisation (WHO)

How can being active improve my mental health?

The great release of endorphins. The dolphins of the body, which glide through our bodies, bringing with them a wave of relief and happiness. Even a short burst of ten minutes brisk walking can increase mental alertness, energy and positive mood states.

Self-esteem refers to how we feel about ourselves. Having high self-esteem helps us to enjoy life at a higher level, feel good and confident about ourselves. It can also lead to greater resilience and achievement in work.

According to Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope - and this was pre-COVID19! So if you’re feeling overwhelmingly stressed, you’re not alone.

Being active is a great way of de-stressing. We’re not just talking about picturing a certain someone’s face on a punching bag and going hell for leather. But exercise of any form, especially when accompanied by a furry friend, helps to burn unwanted negative energy, release cortisol (stress hormone) and take your mind off things.

How does owning a pet help me be active?
Being active doesn’t mean we have to go running at 5am, climb mountains or dance in full-body ‘Eric Prydz - Call On Me’ lycra. There are many, simple ways we can be active. Take having a pet for example. Pets need to be taken care of every day and, as a result, they help us build healthy habits and active routines.

Getting up in the morning:
Dogs and cats need to be fed on a regular schedule. As a result, pet owners need to get up and take care of them—no matter what mood they are in. One heart-melting, wide-eyed look from your hungry pup or a swipe to the face from your hangry cat is all it takes to get out of bed to feed them.

Getting Ella meant that there was a reason to get up every day, and not just for me, but for someone else who was reliant on me. I'd only feed myself or get a cup of tea after I'd done all of the things that I needed to do for her. I'd always put her first. That gave me a responsibility and a purpose, which created a structure in my life.
- James Middleton

Physical activity:
Dog owners need to go for daily W-A-L-K-S (just in case you were reading this out loud near your D-O-G!). Therefore, owners receive the benefits of regular exercise such as getting in the steps, burning the calories and clearing the mind. Studies show that dog owners are far more likely to meet recommended daily exercise requirements.

Time in nature:
Walking a dog gets us outside, whatever the weather. Whether it is a short blast or a long tire-the-pup-out trek, we experience the many mental health benefits of being outdoors.

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