Dr. Phil Shares: Screen Time Negatively Affects Children’s Health

Screen time is quickly becoming one of the hottest topics for parents, healthcare practitioners, and educators. How much screen time should children and adolescents be allowed per day? Does screen time include the time spent on laptops to complete homework and reading assignments for classes? At what age should children begin to use screens? When is an appropriate developmental timeframe to buy your child a phone? Does the use of screens increase the risks of behavioral disorders and sleep problems in children and adolescents? The list of questions goes on and on.

Unfortunately, many of the answers to these questions are simply unknown at this time and some, honestly, are personal choices that each family has to make for themselves. Truly, there is no denying that the digital age is here to stay; screens are all around us, from televisions to smart watches, from iPods to smart phones, from tablets to laptops, there is literally a screen for everything. In 2017, 98% of homes in the US with young children had a mobile touch-screen device compared to 2011 when only 52% of households had such technology.1

Globally, the availability and usage of mobile touch-screen devices by children are at astonishingly high rates:1

  • In Australia, children under 2 years are reported to have an average weekly screen time of 14.2 hours, while those between 2-5 years old average 25.9 hours
  • In France, 78% of children were using a mobile touch-screen device by 14 months of age and 90% of children by 2 years of age
  • Across five countries in Southeast Asia, 66% of children between 3-8 years of age are reportedly using their parents’ mobile touch-screen device, while 14% of children already owned their own devices
  • In Britain, 21% of children aged 3-4 years of age are reported to own their own device

Interestingly enough, part of the dilemma of creating set guidelines on screen time in children is that there are various groups with sometimes competing and conflicting interests in this subject. Educational and tech focused organizations encourage the use of screen time for educational advantages and for enhanced benefits to long-term career and financial goals as children grow into adults. On the other hand, public health officials warn of the potential detriment to young minds and their still developing behaviors.

What is screen time displacing?

There are a variety of reasons cited by experts for keeping screen time to a minimum, particularly in young children.

Take for example the CDC, which states that children between the ages of 8-10 spend, on average, 6 hours per day in front of screens, including 4 hours of TV viewing.2 In children ages 11-14 this number skyrockets to 9 hours per day with approximately 5 of those being TV watching.2 Finally, in teenagers aged 15-18 the number of hours per day in front of a screen averages 7.5 with 4.5 being in front of a TV.2 These numbers are startling high when one realizes the activities which are NOT taking place when this much screen time is involved.

For instance –

  • Mentally and physically supportive health benefits which come from engaging in physical activity such as organized sports, neighborhood pick-up games, the unorganized activities of exploring and using imaginative play alone and in groups, and the quiet, downtime children and adolescents need to regroup and restore their bodies and minds
  • Social aspects of cultivating relationships with physically present individuals, learning how to read and empathize with emotional cues and needs, developing problem solving skills alone and in groups
  • Interconnectedness and responsibilities that come from supporting the family and local community networks through chores, volunteering, and taking part in events
  • Restful sleep and downtime to restore brain and body
  • Reading and engaging in learning opportunities not involving screens or directed education/learning
  • Mindful, present, and nutritious eating time with family, so as to avoid passive overconsumption of nutrient void foods

All of the above suffer when screen time overtakes the activities of unplugged healthful daily life.

Screen time duration impacts wellbeing

A study looked at the effects of screen time in 40,337 children and adolescents in the US between 12-17 years of age.3 For the purpose of this study, screen time included cell phones, computers, electronic devices, electronic games, and TV. The amounts of time spent on screens was compared to an array of psychological wellbeing measures.3

Results from this study found that the wellbeing of children and adolescents did not differ significantly (except in curiosity) between those spending no time on screens and those spending 1 hour or less per day on screens.3 However, after exceeding 1 hour of screen time, the risks to wellbeing increased– the researchers explained that increased screen time (> 1 hour/day), “was generally linked to progressively lower psychological well-being. In terms of relative risk (RR), high users of screens (≥ 7 hours/day) carried twice the risk of low well-being as low users (1 hour/day).”3 The low wellbeing measures included not staying calm (especially among 14- to 17-year-olds, RR 2.08), not finishing tasks (RR 2.53), not being curious (RR 2.72), and having less self-control and emotional stability.3 High users of screens compared to low users were described as more difficult to care for, while twice as many high (vs. low) users of screens had an anxiety or depression diagnosis.3 It was found that the effects of high screen time use on wellbeing was generally greater in adolescents than in children.3

Beyond psychological wellbeing, increased time spent on screens is also associated with increased risk of cardio-metabolic diseases and being overweight.4 It comes as no surprise that longer duration of reading and doing homework is associated with higher academic achievement.5 High use of screen time has also been linked to worsening sleep patterns in children and adolescents.6 In a review of 67 studies published from 1999 to early 2014, it was found that screen time was adversely associated with sleep outcomes (shortened duration and delayed timing) in children and adolescents in 90% of the studies.6  Knowing that restful and adequate sleep, particularly in children and adolescents, is associated with lower obesity risk, better psychological wellbeing, improved cognitive functioning, and lower risk-taking behaviors, it is important that the detrimental effects that screens have on sleep be minimized in this developing population.7

Managing & modeling healthy screen behaviors

A quick peak at the leading organizations’ recommendations on supporting healthy screen time in children and adolescents reveals similar guidelines across the groups which can be broken into 3 key areas:.

1. Model appropriate screen behavior. Modeling appropriate screen behavior begins with parents, guardians, caretakers, and educators. The authors in a BMC Obesity publication concluded that, “Mothers’ and fathers’ media parenting practices were associated with children’s screen time. Interventions aimed at reducing children’s screen time should address both mothers’ and fathers’ media parenting practices.”8 Screen time habits discussed in this article included, among other factors, screen use by parents during meal times.8

2. Limit screen time and limit to age-appropriate content. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following guidelines:9

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video chatting. Parents of children 18-24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they are seeing.
  • For children ages 2-5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour/day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children 6 years and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.

Some researchers and practitioners recommend limiting screen time to 2 hours/day after age 5, not including educational screen time such as what is used for school, studying, and work-related screen interactions.10

3. Encourage face-to-face interactions and physical activity on a regular basis. Be intentional about daily “screen-free” time, particularly during mealtime, conversations, play time, family time, and bedtime. Support daily exercise for all children and adolescents being especially cognizant that sedentary screen time does not become a part of a child’s habits before the age of 5.11

Citations

  1. Straker L et al. Conflicting guidelines on young children’s screen time and use of digital technology create policy and practice dilemmas. J Pediatr. 2018;202:300–303.
  2. CDC. Screen time vs lean time. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dch/multimedia/infographics/getmoving.htm. Accessed December 18, 2018.
  3. Twenge JM et al. Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Prev Med Rep. 2018;12:271-283.
  4. Braig S et al. Screen time, physical activity and self-esteem in children: the Ulm birth cohort study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(6):E1275.
  5. Carson V et al. Systematic review of sedentary behaviour and health indicators in school-aged children and youth: an update. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(6)3:S240-265.
  6. Hale L et al. Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: A systematic literature review. Sleep Med Rev. 2015;21:50–58.
  7. LeBourgeois MK et al. Digital media and sleep in childhood and adolescence. Pediatrics. 2017;140(2):S92–S96.
  8. Tang L et al. Mothers’ and fathers’ media parenting practices associated with young children’s screen-time: a cross-sectional study. BMC Obes. 2018;5:37.
  9. American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP announces new recommendations for children’s media use. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Announces-New-Recommendations-for-Childrens-Media-Use.aspx. Accessed December 18, 2018.
  10. Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic Minute. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-minute-how-much-screen-time-is-too-much-for-kids/. Accessed December 18, 2018.
  11. Canadian Paediatric Society, Digital Health Task Force. Screen time and young children: promoting health and development in a digital world. Paediatr Child Health. 2017;22(8):461–468.

Bianca Garilli, ND, USMC Veteran

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching: Which Should You Do?

warmup exercises dynamic stretching vs static

One of the biggest mistakes newcomers to fitness can make is skipping warm-up exercises before a workout. Not only is warming up valuable, it’s essential, delivering benefits beyond simply preparing your body for exercise, and extending to issues of safety and performance.

But older notions of the warm-up may compromise both, making it important to know the difference between active and passive warm-ups, static and dynamic stretching. Once you’ve settled on a workout program, budget properly for some warm-up exercises by incorporating the information below into your fitness regimen.

Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching

When preparing to do any type of vigorous activity — be it playing a team sport, performing aerobic exercise, or lifting weights — you need to prepare your muscles for action. Traditionally, there have been two primary ways to do that: static stretching and active warm-up exercises.

warm-up-exercises-dynamic-vs-static-2Static stretching

This is what you probably did in your middle school P.E. class: gradually elongating a muscle and holding it for up to 30 seconds. Think side bends or the classic hamstring stretch, where you reach for your toes while sitting on the floor. The goal of these stretches is to release tension, making muscles more pliable and less susceptible to pulls and strains.

Dynamic stretching

Part of the larger category of active warm-ups, this type of preparatory activity involves movement-based stretching like bodyweight lunges and trunk rotations. Additional active warm-ups include sport-specific agility drills, sprints and shuttle runs, jumping rope, jogging, and other low-impact, light effort exercises. The goal is to prime the body for action, and it’s what smart trainers and coaches now recommend that people do not only before competition, but also before every workout.

 

The Benefits of Active Warm-Ups

Research has found that while static stretching can provide recovery benefits when performed at the end of a workout, it can hamper performance if performed at the beginning. That’s because it relaxes muscles, sapping strength, while reducing blood flow and decreasing central nervous system activity.

Active warm-up exercises — especially those that involve dynamic stretching — have the opposite effect, boosting blood flow, activating the central nervous system, and enhancing strength, power, and range of motion. As a result, they offer a host of both immediate and long term benefits.

Active warm-ups improve performance

A 2014 systematic review of 31 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that active warm-ups encompassing such exercises as sprints and plyometrics can enhance power and strength performance. Meanwhile shorter, static stretching not only fails to provide such a boost, but may also reduce strength. A meta-analysis of 32 studies on warming up and performance in 2010 also found that doing an active warm-up before engaging in sports yields improved performance — in this case, by 79 percent across all criteria examined.

“I have even seen runners who are doubling up in distance events on the same day run their second event better than the first,” says Brad A. Roy, Ph.D., FACHE, FACSM, FMFA, executive director of The Summit Medical Fitness Center in Kalispell, Montana. “With adequate rest, the initial event serves as an enhanced warm-up for the second event.”

Even if you aren’t playing a sport every week — or competing in two running events in a single day — doing some dynamic stretching every time you lace up for exercise can help optimize your performance and fast track your results. It doesn’t matter whether you’re exercising in your living room, pumping iron in the gym, pounding the pavement, or hitting the links with your bros on a Sunday — priming your body for action will elevate your game and accelerate your gains.

Active warm-ups prevent injury

A 2008 study of roughly 2,000 soccer players in The BMJ found that a structured warm-up program that included running, jumping, dynamic stretching, and targeted exercises for strength, balance, core stability, and hip and knee durability decreased the overall risk of injury by 35 percent, and cut severe injuries by almost half.

Scientists at Northwestern University had similar results in their 2011 study of 1,500 athletes. They found that 20 minutes of strength, balance, plyometric, and other dynamic stretching exercises before practice yielded a 65 percent reduction in gradual-onset injuries, a 56 percent reduction in acute non-contact injuries, and a 66 percent reduction in non-contact ankle sprains. More recently, a 2014 review of studies published in Orthopaedic Nursing found that tailoring a warm-up to a specific sport led to the fewest injuries and best outcomes.

6 Quick Warm-up Exercises Everyone Should Do

Although a sport-specific warm-up is always preferable, the following dynamic stretching circuit encompassing a broad range of movements can help prepare your body for just about any athletic endeavor. Perform each move for one minute prior to working out or competing.

Shoulder Circle

  • Stand tall with your shoulders relaxed and your arms by your sides.
  • Slowly roll your shoulders in a circle (forward, up, back, down) for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat in the opposite direction.

Trunk Rotation

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your back straight (not arched), raise your arms straight out to your sides, and bend at the elbows.
  • Keeping your knees bent, pivot on the ball of your right foot as you rotate your torso to the left and invert the motion to the right.

Standing Hip Circle

  • Stand on one leg and raise the opposite knee to 90 degrees (your thigh should be parallel to the ground).
  • Keeping your knee raised, open your hip, making wide circles with your leg. Continue for 30 seconds.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

Leg Swing

  • Stand tall with your feet together and your arms out to your sides or gripping a stable surface for balance.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg and raise your right leg out to your side.
  • Swing your right leg parallel with your shoulders back and forth in front of your left leg. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Lunge

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Keeping your chest up, shoulders back, core braced, and back flat, take a large step forward with your right foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your rear knee is bent 90 degrees. (It should hover a couple of inches above the ground.)
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot. Continue alternating legs.

Related: How to Do the Perfect Forward Lunge

Half Squat

  • Stand tall with your arms by your sides and your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, raise your arms straight out in front of you as you push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

8 Tips for a Healthy, Active Spring

tulips-spring-into-health-750

After the winter chill is gone it’s nice to go for a walk without having to navigate snow banks, salt, or sleet. Everyone can benefit from taking advantage of the more healthful opportunities afforded, but the trick is to not overdo it. Getting your body used to a more active lifestyle takes some conditioning and common sense. Keep these tips in mind when you head out the door.

Use heat therapy to soothe muscles before and after exercise

Most people know that a heating pad or warm bath after a workout or slight injury can make a significant difference in terms of pain reduction and comfort. What is not so well known is that heat can play a preventative role, too.

  1. Applying heat before a workout session can minimize muscle strain. A study compared pain felt by exercisers who applied a heat wrap to their lower back before their workout session with those who did not. That treatment group rated their post-exercise pain as about 50% less intense as the group that only did stretching. Using commercial heat wrap products available in drugstores may be able to keep you comfortable and get you back to action sooner.
  2. Heat therapy calms muscles and prevents cramping. After a workout, muscles and joints are potentially dehydrated and, because they are attenuated (weakened), not as stable as when they have been resting. Applying a heating pad or wrap for 10 minutes or so while seated or lying down after a workout session or strenuous activity like spring cleaning can help muscles calm down and return to their normal state without seizing up.

Learn more about preventative heat therapy in Heat Wrap Therapy Can Reduce Post-Exercise Low Back Pain.

Stretch to release stiff joints and prevent injury

Whether it’s golf, tennis, gardening, or just walking, stretching is one way to keep you in action longer. Similar to heat therapy, a stretching session of five minutes both before and after physical activity can pay big dividends by keeping you healthy and preserving your motivation to stay active.

  1. Focus on the big muscles first. The quadriceps and hamstrings in your thighs are generally the largest muscles of the body and deserve special attention. That means stretching the back, front, and inner and outer thigh. It may seem a bit much, but you can’t really move without them so it’s worth the effort, particularly because they play a key supporting role for your back.
  2. Stretch the whole body. One approach to stretching is to concentrate on these muscles first, and then work up through the back, arms, and neck, and then down through the calf and ankle.

See Hamstring Stretches for a guide to treating this muscle well, and Sports Injuries and Back Pain for additional stretching tips.

Don’t shortchange your sleep

It can be difficult to adjust to the longer days of springtime, particularly with abrupt daylight savings adjustments. Sleep deprivation and insomnia are major causes of on-the-job injury, as well as other health problems since a tired body is a weakened body. How can you get the shut-eye you need?

  1. Have a sleep routine. Your body responds to routine on both conscious and unconscious levels. Going to bed at the same time, for instance, and only using the bedroom at nighttime can help switch your mindset into ‘sleep mode’.
  2. Make food and drink work for, not against, sleep. Sometimes it seems like there is a coffee shop on every corner. Caffeine has even been injected into bottled water. Moderation is the key, and most doctors recommend eliminating caffeinated drinks after lunch, assuming you turn in around 10 p.m. Java in the morning is OK. Have coffee in the evening and you may be in for a long night of counting sheep.

For more on sleep, consider these 11 Unconventional Sleep Tips.

Move away from your desk, couch, car or gardening stool

It’s all too easy to focus on a task only to look up and realize that you have been in essentially the same position for two hours. Your neck, your back, your arms—they all ache. Sitting too long in one position slows down blood flow to both appendages and your brain, so move them—because they are designed to move.

  1. Set a reminder to move every 20 to 30 minutes. Use your cell phone or watch to set an alarm. That will be your signal to get up and walk around the house or office, or fold a load of laundry, or take out the trash. It doesn’t matter what you do, really, only that you change position and use the major limbs in a different way.
  2. Do stretches at your table or in your cube. Maybe you don’t have the luxury of taking a little walk. No matter. Simply standing up and reaching your hands over your head and then trying to touch your toes may be enough to activate the blood flow.

Learn more:

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Top 10 February Healthy Heart Tips

A healthy lifestyle will make your heart healthier. Here are 10 things you can do to look after your heart.

Give up smoking

If you’re a smoker, quit. It’s the single best thing you can do for your heart health.

Smoking is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. A year after giving up, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.

You’re more likely to stop smoking for good if you use NHS stop smoking services. Visit the Smokefree website or ask your GP for help with quitting.

Get active

Getting – and staying – active can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. It can also be a great mood booster and stress buster.

Do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. One way to achieve this target is by doing 30 minutes of activity on five days a week. Fit it in where you can, such as by cycling to work.

Manage your weight

Being overweight can increase your risk of heart disease. Stick to ahealthy, balanced diet low in fat and sugar, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, combined with regular physical activity.

Find out if you are a healthy weight with the BMI calculator. If you’re overweight, try our 12-week weight loss plan.

Eat more fibre

Eat plenty of fibre to help lower your risk of heart disease – aim for at least 30g a day. Eat fibre from a variety of sources, such as wholemeal bread, bran, oats and wholegrain cereals, potatoes with their skins on, and plenty of fruit and veg.

Cut down on saturated fat

Eating too many foods that are high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood. This increases your risk of heart disease. Choose leaner cuts of meat and lower-fat dairy products like 1% fat milk over full-fat (or whole) milk.

Read the facts about fat.

Get your 5 A DAY

Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. They’re a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. There are lots of tasty ways to get your 5 A DAY, like adding chopped fruit to cereal or including vegetables in your pasta sauces and curries. Get more 5 A DAY fruit and veg tips.

Cut down on salt

To maintain healthy blood pressure, avoid using salt at the table and try adding less to your cooking. Once you get used to the taste of food without added salt, you can cut it out completely.

Watch out for high salt levels in ready-made foods. Most of the salt we eat is already in the foods we buy. Check the food labels – a food is high in salt if it has more than 1.5g salt (or 0.6g sodium) per 100g. Adults should eat less than 6g of salt a day in total – that’s about one teaspoon.

Eat fish

Eat fish at least twice a week, including a portion of oily fish. Fish such as mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna and salmon are a source of omega-3 fats, which can help protect against heart disease.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn’t have more than two portions of oily fish a week.

Drink less alcohol

Don’t forget alcohol contains calories. Regularly drinking more than the NHS recommends can have a noticeable impact on your waistline. Try to keep to the recommended daily alcohol limits to reduce the risk of serious problems with your health, including risks to your heart health.

Read the food label

When shopping, it’s a good idea to look at the label on food and drink packaging to see how many calories and how much fat, salt and sugar the product contains. Understanding what is in food and how it fits in with the rest of your diet.

Thanks to http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Healthyhearts/Pages/Healthy-heart-tips.aspx

The Health Benefits Of Owning a Pet

Owning Pets Can Lead To:
Increased Health, Increased Longevity, Decreased Cholesterol, Decreased Weight, Decreased Depression, and Overall Improvement in Physical and Emotional Health.

 

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

As a pet owner, I frequently hear that owning a pet, or a dog in particular, can be a huge benefit in relation to your health and can possibly help you live longer. For years I have believed and reported this to be true to my patients. The results I have witnessed with sick patients and geriatrics receiving pet therapy is amazing and truly touches your heart when you witness the smiles and energy reborn in these individuals. It seems that when patients are lost in the sadness of an illness, or lost in their own minds with dementia, dogs can lift their spirits and bring them back to happiness and health. As a healthcare provider writing this article, I thought it was prudent to do a bit of research on the topic. To be more accurate on a scholarly level, I did not do research, I did read the research of others on the topic, including the American Heart and Stroke Foundation, making it a literature review.

My Review of Available Research

My review did have some interesting findings with respect to increased health and longevity, decreased cholesterol levels, weight and depression, and overall improvement in physical and emotional health. Wow, with those results, why wouldn’t everyone get a dog, or another type of pet? It’s like the perfect diet pill with an emotional bonus?! Does dog food cost less than a gym membership and a happy pill prescription? Sounds too easy to be true, and it might not be true in reality.

Dog Owners are more Active than Cat Owners

A further review of literature shows that people who choose dogs over cats are more active prior to obtaining the pet. Daniel DeNoon, the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter spoke of a study that “followed 369 people with cardiovascular disease. A year later, those who owned a dog were four times more likely to be alive than those who didn’t have a dog. Cats, however, did not improve their owners’ odds of survival” (link at bottom of page).

Complete Unconditional Love

There was no mention of activity level of the dog owners or the cat owners. Did the dog owner study group live longer because they were more active before the heart disease and remained active after the heart disease? Were the cat owners less active? It is obvious that there was a distinct difference in survival rate. Could the results be related to the often independent nature of cats versus the unconditional love of a puppy or a dog?

The emotional needs of a dog compared to a cat are directed at the owner as in the traditional dog filled with uber excitement just waiting for their owner to simply open their eyes in the morning. For my dogs, it is like a celebration to see me wake up in the morning, with a huge amount of energy, love, and happiness. Complete unconditional love has to be good for your health!

Active People get Dogs

Berkley University in California speaks of the connection between health and having a dog for a pet. One of their statements regarding a recent study “confirmed that dog owners get more physical activity (at least in part because they have to walk their dogs), and are less likely to be overweight or to smoke, all of which contributes to cardiovascular health”.

Once again, I have a difficult time believing that having a dog would make you quit smoking or over-eating. The most reasonable explanation for this statement would be that people who choose to get a puppy (or in my case two puppies) are already active and engaging in health provoking activities. With certainty, I can assure the world that if I was overweight and smoking, it would impede taking care of my two crazy but beautiful boxer puppies.

Dogs Take a Lot of Energy!

Dogs do take a lot of energy!

My spouse’s mother constantly questions “why we didn’t get lap dogs”, and his daughters believe “cats are all we could handle, dogs are just too much work!”

They are all 100% accurate! Dogs are a lot of work, and that work comes with a huge return of love and kisses. That work is what makes you stay healthy. You can’t sit for long without them making you move. They require attention and give you attention. Therefore, they don’t let you decline in health, they insist you stay active, and activity is what it takes to lower your cholesterol, reduce your weight, increase your mental health, and possibly gives you more energy to make healthier choices on other topics such as smoking?

Increasing Health by Increasing Activity

In addition to increasing health by increasing activity, many dog owners thrive secondary to the unconditional love of a pet. Pets don’t get angry because you didn’t listen to their story over dinner, they don’t care if you left the toilet seat up, they don’t care if you missed a special event, they only care that you give them love and attention. They will wait for your love under any circumstance and will never try to make you beg for forgiveness. This type of unconditional love makes dogs exceptional for people with health issues or mental health issues.

One must also consider that dogs do not live as long as humans. The loss of a dog is as equal on a pain or emotional pain scale as losing a loved one. Harvard Medical School states,”the death of a pet can trigger a grieving process similar to what happens after the loss of a close friend or family member” (link at bottom of the page).

Being attentive to family or friends that are experiencing health issues in their pet are the same as health issues in a family member. Be present and helpful to your loved ones when they experience the same. Altered health of a dog that has given unconditional love to your mother, father, brother, sister, or child will indeed affect them in a way that they will need your assistance. Grieving is a curious entity and a broken heart is not easily mended.

Families and health care providers should always know pet therapy is available to assist with grieving. My boxer puppies visited a long-term care home and the residents would glow at holding them and even talked to their families daily about my dogs.

A piece of heaven on earth!

by

BabyBoomer Health Online