Tagged with: awareness disability exercise fitness goals health life Physical Activity research
Domestication occurred around 10,000 years ago, and animals have been at our side ever since. The empathy, support, and love displayed by species like dogs or cats can help to support people through many different challenges and issues, including helping in disaster search and rescue, and sniffing out anything from drugs to cancer tumors. Service animals providing support and help for everyday tasks – such as for people with sight or hearing problems – are well known, but they can help in many other ways too: not just for the daily necessities, but for getting out and getting active.
Help from horses
A prime example of this is equine therapy, where a program of interaction with a horse or pony can help to improve mobility and flexibility. Horses can be trained to react to different commands depending on the capabilities of the rider, for example, responding only to the reins, leg signals, or entirely by voice commands; meaning that it is very accessible. As the achievements of many paralympic equestrians demonstrate, horses give independence, freedom, and movement to those who might otherwise not be able to experience it.
Engaging in equine therapy is proven to improve both the physical quality of life and mental wellbeing. This has been shown in many studies, including examples undertaken with breast cancer survivors, veterans with PTSD, and young women with social anxiety. Horses are a calming presence and encourage a mindful approach to situations. The physical act of learning to ride while caring for a horse is a great physical stimulus. It provides people with a goal and a purpose, rather than exercise simply for the sake of it. This encourages people who might otherwise find it difficult getting outside and active, to do so.
Equine therapy is growing, but is not currently widely available or necessarily easy to access for everyone – horses are expensive. There’s plenty of other therapy service options though, many of which give similar benefits.
Man’s best friend
Many homes wouldn’t feel complete without a dog – along with cats and fish, they’re the nation’s favorite pet. As well as the invaluable assistance that service dogs give to people living independently, any dog in the home is fantastic for getting people out and active on the required daily walks. Exercise reduces the risk of major illnesses and chronic diseases, as well as boosting mood, energy levels, sleep quality, and self-esteem. Getting out and about with a dog can help to meet other people for social interaction, such as while walking in the park or attending training classes. Evidence from studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder demonstrate that the presence of therapy dogs helps to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones; which can be really helpful for those trying new activities or who find social interaction emotionally trying.