fitness · motivation

Well being, health, and vitamin P

I was amused last week when Precision Nutrition posted the following message to Facebook:


Did you know that research has shown real health benefits to pet companionship, including lower cholesterol, improved blood pressure, decreased depression, and improved blood vessel function?

Post a picture of your Vitamin P today and share the furry love.

I’m doing the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program and every few weeks they add a new habit to our checklists: eat protein with every meal, eat veggies with every meal, eat to 80% full, etc. And now a new one, I thought, Vitamin P. What the heck is that?

Luckily I also looked at the picture and saw a coach running along the beach with her dog. Phew. “P” is for pet. I’ve got that one covered. I’ve written here about how dogs keep you active no matter what. Bad weather? They don’t care. They just love to fun and frolic outside and it’s contagious. See Injuries, exercise, and thank God for dogs.

Here’s the health benefits of Vitamin P:

  • Increase longevity after heart attacks

  • Lower cholesterol and triglycerides

  • Improve blood pressure

  • Reduce irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)

  • Improve blood vessel (endothelial) function

  • Increase physical activity and functioning

  • Reduce medical appointments and minor health problems

  • Predict seizures

  • Alert to hypoglycemia

  • Decrease depression

  • Raise self-esteem

  • Boost levels of exercise and physical activity

  • Improve alertness and attention among elderly people who have pets

From Vitamin P: The Secret to Health and Longevity.

And then this morning I saw this in the New York Times, Owning a Dog Is Linked to Reduced Heart Risk.

“The nation’s largest cardiovascular health organization has a new message for Americans: Owning a dog may protect you from heart disease.

The unusual message was contained in a scientific statement published on Thursday by the American Heart Association, which convened a panel of experts to review years of data on the cardiovascular benefits of owning a pet. The group concluded that owning a dog, in particular, was “probably associated” with a reduced risk of heart disease.

People who own dogs certainly have more reason to get outside and take walks, and studies show that most owners form such close bonds with their pets that being in their presence blunts the owners’ reactions to stress and lowers their heart rate, said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, the head of the committee that wrote the statement.”

If you’re bored of the usual, walk, run, throw with dogs here’s a workout for you and your canine companion: A New Year, A New Way to Exercise With Your Dog.

Here’s my source of Vitamin P: Please, please take me for a walk? Who could say no?



4 thoughts on “Well being, health, and vitamin P

  1. The only problem is that a pet is fundamentally more and needs a whole lot more than what can be captured in such a human-centric approach (i.e. the question “What are the health benefits of owning a pet?”). Animals– especially dogs– more often than not do not have good lives. A lot of them are ill-treated, and this includes being neglected or left at home alone for long periods of time for the majority of their lives. Sure, having a pet may be associated with better human health, but this might also be because people who elect to adopt or own animals who need constant walking, running, and playing outside as well as human attention are already more likely to be fit/ athletic, fond of the outdoors, health-conscious, food-conscious, etc.

    Encouraging people to “get their vitamin p” just seems a little crass to me– people who never really thought before about having a dog but then read that owning a dog bring health benefits might not be the people we really want adopting or owning dogs. It’s a huge commitment and our culture already tends to vastly under-emphasize the degree to which and the multiple levels at which that is true… to encourage people to get pets because they make humans feel better or make humans healthier seems to be starting off already on the wrong, benefits-to-human foot. Rather than the benefits-to-dog or responsibilities-of-human-to-dog foot.

    I know I might sound a little shrill, but I have seen so many dogs suffer in horrible situations with humans who think they are “just fine” as owners. It’s very sad and that’s not even considering the dogs left to rot in shelters or dogs in extreme situations of abuse at the hands of their humans. I do think that dogs and humans can be great companions to one another and encourage adoption if a dog is what you truly want to invest time and energy into… it’s just that most people want a dog for a lot of bad reasons. And just to reap some health benefits is also a bad reason when not combined with other motivations. I know plently of people who don’t walk their dogs enough, and so the argument that “they’ll motivate you to get outside” seems a little specious. A walk around the block is not enough for a dog and a non-motivated human isn’t going to be motivated by his/her dog to run 10 miles. So where does that leave us? On the couch as humans and unfulfilled as dogs.

    1. Agree with pretty much everything you say here. Both of our dogs were adopted from rescue agencies and so obviously not everyone makes a competent or happy pet owner. I’d recommend that people spend time with dogs before they adopt and choose a dog that fits their lifestyle. What interests me about the vitamin P arguments isn’t the argument that a dog gets you out walking. That’s only true for good dog owners and it’s the last interesting part of the argument for human benefits. I was interested more in the stress relief and emotional well being bits of the argument. My university brings in dogs at exam time to help students with stress relief. I love watching my dogs play and frolic outside. They make me smile and can get me running and chasing and playing with them even when I’m feeling down to start. Obviously dogs have their own needs and this is only about the ways humans benefit. It’s not the whole story.

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