Cold, wet, windy weather and grey skies plus yet another lockdown – all this creates a perfect storm to create the worst ever winter blues. But what can do to lift your spirits? According to Dr Margit Gabriele Muller, vet, and NLP Master, dog walking is a huge help.
Pets improve mental health especially in difficult times with a recent study revealing 90% of us feel a pet helps us to deal emotionally with lockdown! Here Dr Muller reveals some of the key benefits walking your dog can have.
Benefit #1: Getting outside
Lockdown and winter blues are detrimental to our mental health. Getting out of your home and doing something different on your daily walks bring new experiences, new sights and creates beautiful lasting memories. This stimulates both your brain and your dog’s and improves your mental health when you need it most.
Benefit #2: Improving your immune response
Rain or shine, your dog still loves going outside. Daily walking in every weather supports your immune system, which is particularly useful in Covid-19 times!
Benefit #3: Reducing anxiety, depression and stress
Walking your dog, particularly somewhere out in the countryside or by the sea soothes your lockdown anxiety, depression, and stress. Seeing and being in nature with our dogs brings us emotional relief and healing that helps us to cope much better with our daily lockdown life. Spending time with dogs and having a clear daily routine with dog walks reduces depression and anxiety by giving structure, validation, and purpose. Studies show that 90% of owners feel reduced loneliness and improved mood.
Benefit #4: Daily exercise
The Covid-19 pandemic affects every part of our lives, including our physical health as gyms and sports clubs are closed. But walking your dog daily means you are consistently spending time doing healthy exercise at moderate intensity. Apart from having fewer visits to the GP, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, dogs help their pet parents reduce cardiovascular disease risk by 36%. Walks with your dog can even increase your lifespan as only 3% of dog owners in a study died after a heart attack compared with 28% of non-dog owners. Daily exercise and interaction with dogs lowers a person’s triglyceride levels from 192 mg/dl to 109mg/dl and reduces weight by 5%, and your dog’s weight by 15%. In addition, the risk of stroke is decreased.
Benefit #5: Increasing hormones that improve our wellbeing
During lockdown, our stress hormones increase. Going out for walks and playing with your dog is such an intense, ‘in the moment’ interaction that it increases ‘happy’ hormones including dopamine and endorphins which lift our mood. These hormones can help to reduce pain and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol which can lead to better overall wellbeing.
Benefit #6: Enhancing the bond between you and your dog
Whilst walking your dog, you interact closely with them and they learn to react to you in a much better way. Through walks, you give your dog the support they need, and improve their sense of security, which increases the affection and bond with you.
Dr Margit Gabriele Muller, is a leading vet and award-winning author of Your Pet, Your Pill: 101 Inspirational Stories About How Pets Lead You to A Happy, Healthy and Successful Life, out now, on Amazon.