There is something idyllic about the simplicity of country life. Living off the land, enjoying the fruits of your labour creates a sense of satisfaction few other experiences can rival.
For some, however, it is all about the peace and quiet you get when you venture away from the city.
Life can be busy and hectic, and living on a farm certainly has its challenges, but it’s a life full of benefits.
The air is cleaner, the cost of living is lower, and you have access to the full range of outdoor activities you love.
But there is another benefit you might find surprising.
It is no secret that spending time in nature is good for your health. However, studies show that keeping farm animals can be beneficial for mental and physical health as well.
Keep reading to learn how.
Keeping farm animals can improve your immunity
Pets are a lot of work and keeping farm animals is no different. While there are certainly challenges involved in keeping farm animals, there are some unexpected benefits as well.
For example, spending time around farm animals may improve your immunity.
The farming lifestyle can be dirty at times, but some research suggests that may be the very reason it’s so good for you. A farm is teeming with microbes – they’re even in the air you and your family breathe.
Though certain microbes can be dangerous, exposure to a wide variety of microbes can actually challenge and strengthen the immune system over time.
Children who live on farms have been shown to have more resilient gut microbiomes than kids who live in the city. They experience fewer childhood diseases and have stronger immune systems overall.
Farm animals help protect children from allergies
Living on a farm can boost the immune system over time, but it may also help protect your children from allergies.
It may sound surprising, but research from Johns’ Hopkins University revealed that babies and children exposed to dirt, germs, and animal dander had a lower risk for developing asthma and allergies than children who lived in more urban environments.
Studies conducted on Amish children have yielded similar results.
Not only does there seem to be some protective benefit associated with farm life, but some research shows that city dwellers have a higher risk for asthma and allergies due to increased exposure to pollutants as well as roach and mouse allergens.
Again, however, exposure to such substances can actually benefit the immune system if exposure occurs during the first 12 months of life.
Keeping farm animals provides access to clean nutrition
Farm life may be simple at times, but sometimes simpler is better – especially when it comes to nutrition.
Natural, whole foods are better for the body than processed foods. If you raise the food yourself, it’s even better.
A study conducted at Penn State University showed that raising chickens in a natural environment with access to the outdoors yielded eggs with double the amount of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
Dairy cos raised in pastured produce milk that’s higher in essential fatty acids and cattle raised on grass produce leaner, healthier beef.
Whether you go fully organic or not, raising your own food could be a much healthier option than shopping at the grocery store. After all, access to quality nutrition is essential for overall health and wellness.
If you’re raising the animals yourself, you have complete control over what they’re fed and how they’re raised. This usually means fewer antibiotics and artificial growth hormones, too.
Caring for farm animals benefits your mental health
Humans simply weren’t meant to spend our entire lives indoors. We need fresh air and sunlight, and studies show that the benefits of spending time in nature are very real and measurable.
Walking in nature, for example, has been shown to improve working memory more than walks taken in an urban environment.
Spending time outside has been shown to reduce stress and lower heart rate. Even working in an office with a window and a view of the outdoors can be beneficial.
But it isn’t just spending time outside that can benefit your mental health – it’s directly interacting with other living things.
Pets have been shown to provide immense health benefits and farm animals can too.
In fact, horses have a long history of use as therapy animals.
They are particularly popular for use in animal therapy because they provide immediate feedback, and they have a unique ability to mirror the feelings of the rider or handler.
In a 2008 study, researchers observed the benefits of working with farm animals as a form of therapy for psychiatric patients.
Out of a total of 90 patients with mixed psychiatric ailments, two-thirds participated in a farm intervention where they worked with cows, sheep, and horses for three hours per week for twelve weeks.
During their six-month follow-ups, the farm patients reported significant improvements in coping skills and self-efficacy compared to the control group.
Spending time with animals can boost heart health
Simply spending time with animals can have a soothing, stress-relieving effect but not just for your mind.
Studies show that interacting with animals can benefit your physical health as well, especially your cardiovascular health.
Interacting with animals has the potential to boost heart health in the following ways:
- It may help relieve stress;
- Also, it can lower both diastolic and systolic blood pressure;
- It may help reduce cholesterol levels;
- Furthermore, it might improve recovery from cardiovascular events;
- It can increase physical activity levels.
Farm life is not easy, so it is important to make sure your heart is healthy enough for it.
If you are up to the challenge, however, living in the country and raising animals can have significant cardiovascular benefits.
Whether you struggle with mental or physical ailments, there’s no denying the benefit of spending time with animals.
Just remember that caring for animals is a major responsibility and it’s just as important to care properly for yourself.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, talk to your doctor or consider speaking to an online psychiatrist to get the support you need.