Did you know that the first full week of May is National Pet Week? Started by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the week is meant to celebrate the more than 200 million pets living in homes across America and the contributions they make to the lives of their owners. Indeed, pets are more than just a furry (or scaly) friend to cuddle and play with—they enrich the lives of their families in countless ways, including many that can actually improve their health. Read on to discover the health benefits of having a pet!

You’ll Exercise More

This first benefit is pretty self-evident, especially for dog owners: they need to walk! In fact, one study found that people who have dogs walk 28% faster than those who don’t have a four-legged friend. But dogs aren’t the only pets that encourage movement. Crawling around on the floor as you play with your cat, rabbit, hamster or iguana will activate little-used muscles in your back, core and legs that will help improve stability, balance and flexibility in the long term.

You’ll Have Less Stress

Owning a pet comes with many mental and emotional benefits as well. One study found that when participants were asked to complete a stressful task, they felt less stressed while doing it when their pets were with them, even compared to the company of a friend or family member. Having a pet is even thought to lower blood pressure, especially in high-risk patients, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The unconditional love and companionship of an animal, something you can count on regardless of the circumstances, helps to drastically improve mood and lower stress. 

You’ll Get Sick Less Often

You’ve heard that children who play in the dirt tend to have stronger immune systems—the same goes for kids and adults who own pets. Being exposed to pet dander and the bacteria that they pick up outdoors can help strengthen the immune system, and in the case of children, even prevent them from developing allergies as they get older. Another boon: Spending time with a pet after a surgery or injury or even while experiencing chronic headaches or joint pain has been found to decrease use of pain medication.

You’ll Have Stronger Social Skills

While some people might view having a pet as an excuse to avoid socializing, pets—especially dogs—actually provide more chances to do so. Taking your pup for a spin around the neighborhood or for a run in the dog park creates opportunities to socialize with people who share a common interest, effortlessly expanding your community. In fact, one Canadian study found that pet owners were more “socially engaged” in their neighborhoods than non-pet owners. The conclusion: Pets are the perfect ice breaker!

How is your pet making you healthier?Comment on our most recent Instagram post @powerforlifefitness and tell us about it! 

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