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A Healthy Start to the New Year!

It's 2014! Can you believe it's 2014!? Neither can we but it is indeed the beginning of a New Year and you've probably made some promises (resolutions?) to do things differently this year (this is the year you really are going to quit smoking, right?). Let's see, in addition to learning to play camel polo or finally scheduling that tandem skydive, most likely on your list are things to do with your health and reducing stress in your life. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you're not alone; in fact, a study published in the December 2013 University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA Journal of Clinical Psychology listed losing weight (no surprise there) and staying fit and healthy (no surprise there, either) among the top five most common resolutions. (Will we all fail AGAIN this year? )

Well, if you're a pet owner (or thinking about joining the club and becoming a pet owner), you could be well on your way to a healthier year with the help of your four-legged friend. How so? For starters, pet owners (dog owners mostly, 'cause who really walks a cat?) get moving more frequently as they're more likely to go for walks with their pooch; a sure-fire way to blast away some of the evidence of the holiday indulgence! And think about that moment when you return home from a particularly stressful day (was the traffic on Sheik Zayed Road simply unbearable today or was your boss just a downright ogre?), does cuddling up with your kitty-cat bring you an instantaneous moment of "aaahhhhh"? Thought so. Well, that's no fluke, a 2011 study published in the Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals showed that stroking a pet (cat, dog, hamster or bird) releases oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress and lowers blood pressure at the same time (double bonus!). Other studies have shown that the children in your family may benefit from the presence of pets as well. Here's one published on July 9, 2012 in the American Academy of Pediatrics. Another report in the August 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children raised in homes with pets are less likely to develop asthma and allergies. But you'd better introduce pets to your children quickly; the best results were in babies who were first exposed to pets before the age of twelve-months.

So, go on, get walking, give as many cuddles as you can and don't hesitate to bring a new furry friend into your home; your heart will thank you in more ways than one. Happy and healthy New Year!

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