There’s no doubt about it. Pets make our lives better in so many ways. Our pets accept us for who we are. They don’t care how much money we have, what we do for a job, or even what we look like. Plus, they provide us with comfort and understanding with no questions asked.

National Pet Week is the first full week of May. Started by the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Pet Week helps foster responsible pet ownership, increases public awareness of veterinary medicine, and helps people recognize the human-animal bond.

We thought it would be fun to share eight reasons why pets are great for your physical and mental health. So whether you’re trying to convince a spouse/parent to let you get a pet, or you’re simply curious, we hope you find these health benefits helpful and interesting!

1. Increases Exercise Opportunities

One of the many health benefits of owning a pet is the increased opportunities to exercise. Most pets love going outside to play, walk, swim, or hike. The exercise is good for pets, and it’s beneficial for you too! Exercise can improve our moods, help us maintain a healthy weight, boost our immunity, and reduce our risk of chronic diseases.

A study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog owners walk more than non-owners, and they were 54% more likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity.

2. Helps Lower Blood Pressure

Another health benefit of having a pet is that it can help lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than those who don’t own a dog. Harvard Medical School points out that this is probably because pets have a calming effect on their owners and dog owners typically get more exercise. Studies have even shown that blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog!

3. Boosts Your Mood

Pets can also help boost our moods. Pets are sure to put a smile on your face, while their unconditional love can help boost confidence and self-esteem. “A powerful neurochemical, oxytocin, is released when we look at our companion animal, which brings feelings of joy,” says Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.

4. Reduces Loneliness

Pets can be a great source of comfort and support for people. The constant companionship of a pet can help people manage depression and loneliness. Plus, it can help improve a person’s mental health. According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pet owners tend to have better overall well being than non-owners.

5. Decreases Stress

Having a pet seems to have a calming effect on people, which can help decrease stress. Research has shown that people with dogs tend to experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. According to Harvard Medical School, “That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly, dampening the effects of stress on the body.” Studies have also shown that interacting with animals can help decrease cortisol levels, which is a stress-related hormone.

6. Decreases Cholesterol & Triglyceride Levels

Owning a pet can also help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Studies have found that dog owners have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those who don’t own a dog. The CDC points out that regular walking or playing with pets could be the reason for the decrease in these levels.

7. Increases Socialization Opportunities

Owning a pet can increase socialization opportunities because owners are often outside, either playing with their pet or taking them to go potty. This gives you more opportunities to chat with a neighbor or anyone else outside. Whether you’re on a walk with your pet or at a dog park, you’re likely to run into another pet owner and may even form a new friendship. Pets can help us socialize with others by giving us something common to talk about with our coworkers, neighbors, and even strangers.

8. Helps Decrease Allergies in Children

Last, but definitely not least, another benefit of owning a pet is that it can help decrease allergies and improve the overall immune system in children. Clinical & Experimental Allergy published a study that found children who were exposed to pets before they were 6 months old were less likely to develop allergies, upper respiratory infections, asthma, and eczema as they got older. Experts believe that early exposure to dander and other allergens can make children less reactive to them over time.

There are so many benefits of owning a pet. The constant companionship, slobbery kisses, and never-ending love just can’t be beat!