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7 Health benefits you can thank your pet for

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?)...

Here's why getting a pet is good for your health

Fur-babies have the cute and cuddly thing down, but their superpowers go way beyond the whole unconditional love thing. Pets know things. When it comes to my own pet (a kitty, natch), he helps me stay in touch with the real priorities in life: eating, sleeping and playing fetch (nope, not a typo).

Here are seven health-boosting superpowers a pet could bestow upon you (you know, if you're a fan of happiness and personal fulfillment):

1. You'll have a perma-workout buddy

Even if all you want to do is stay on the couch and hang out in ShondaLand, nothing will rip your ass off the cushion faster than your dog's I'm-going-to-pee-on-everything face. You won't have a choice but to finally put your exercise routine on lockdown. Studies have shown dog owners walk more often than people who don't, so it's a great way to squeeze more movement into your day.

More: 10 Dog breeds that make great running companions

2. They'll remind you to lighten up

Pets do ridiculously cute things that bring laughter into our lives — and we lurv talking about their cuteness, which spreads the wealth. Plus, with the laughs come oodles of health benefits: "When you laugh it strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy, relaxes your body, improves blood flow, decreases pain and decreases the stress hormones that can make you store fat," says health expert Kyra Williams. Bring on the giggles!

3. They'll improve your mental health

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found pets provide mood-boosting social and emotional support. "We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions," lead researcher Allen R. McConnell, Ph.D., of Miami University in Ohio said in a statement. "Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners."

More: Stress is making us less compassionate

4. They may help reduce your risk of heart disease

A 2013 study from the American Heart Association revealed that pets may lower your heart disease risk, since pets have been linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and have a positive effect on your body's reactions to stress.

5. You'll be more social

Pet owners are more likely to meet new people and foster new friendships when out for walks, giving your pet the opportunity to engage with furry friends too.

More: Benefits of pet ownership for children

6. You'll feel a sense of belonging

A 2013 study published in the journal Health & Place found dog owners who took their dogs out walking a minimum of four times a week were more likely to feel connected to their community than those who didn't.

7. They put the kibosh on loneliness

According to a study from Miami University and Saint Louis University, owning a pet makes people — especially those who live alone — feel less lonely. And in another, lonely people found as much comfort in thinking about their pet as they did their closest human friend.

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