Want to improve your health?  Consider adding a pet to your family.  Pets provide unconditional love and are known to help lower blood pressure and reduce depression.  The list of health benefits doesn’t stop there.  Here are some other perks that come with owning a pet.

You’ll be more active

According to the American Heart Association, adults need to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week to be healthy.  Owning a pet forces you to get off the couch and make walking a part of your daily routine.  Mainly because you don’t want your dog relieving themselves in your living room or anywhere else in the house.  Research shows that dog owners are 54 percent more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise than non-owners.

Touching your pet alleviates stress

When you’re not feeling your best, petting your four-legged friend can help you turn that frown upside down.  The act of stroking or hugging your pet causes your body to release oxytocin which is a bonding hormone. As a result, you’ll feel less stressed.  Bonding with your pet also lowers your blood pressure and heart rate.

People are more likely to strike up a conversation

Dogs are great companions but they’re also good icebreakers for adults who struggle to make friends on their own.  Not too many people can resist striking up a conversation when a good-looking dog is around.  Typically, they’ll make comments or start asking questions about your pet and before you know it, you’ve made a new buddy without even trying.

You’ll live longer

People who own pets live longer.  A study was conducted to see how social isolation and social support effects the survival of patients hospitalized in a coronary care unit.  A year after being discharged, the researchers contacted the surviving patients.  They found that those who had at least one pet in the home had a higher survival rate. Out of the 78 patients who survived, 50 were pet owners.

Dog ownership protects children from respiratory infections

Respiratory infections are a common occurrence during the first year of a child’s life.  However, having a pet in the home can lower their risk.  Researchers in Finland followed 397 children from pregnancy onward asking parents to submit weekly diaries and questionnaires about dog and cat contacts.  They found that children who had dogs in the home were healthier than those without.

They’ll defend you to the death

Dogs are extremely loyal, and they’ll do what they can to protect you.  In many instances their loud barking is enough to make criminals think twice about breaking into your home.  If bad guys do make it through the front door, dogs are very fast and can chase them away.  Most people aren’t going to just stand there when a dog is charging at them full speed.