Dogs have long been touted as being a man or woman’s best friend. But mounting evidence shows that in addition to being be your favorite companion, dogs may also encourage you to be more physically active.

It makes sense that if you have a dog who needs to go out to do his business, you’ll get more physical activity than if you just sit on the couch. In addition, there are other health benefits to owning a dog.

One study done at Michigan State University and published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog owners are more likely than non-dog owners to get in the 150 minutes of physical activity per week recommended by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults. The study found that owning a dog increased leisure-time physical activity by 69 percent as well.

Another study done at the University of Missouri found participants walked 28 percent faster when walking a puppy compared to when they walked with another person.

More likely to walk more and walk faster if you have a do? That’s great news! But here’s another benefit: Dogs make the perfect walking buddies because they’re always willing to exercise with you. They won’t bail on you because they’re tired, lazy or busy. Researchers found that people who walk with their dogs are more likely to stick to their fitness routine than those who walk alone or with other people. And sticking with any fitness regimen over the long term is the key to improved health.

Not only is your pooch the perfect fitness buddy, but here are a few other health benefits of owning a dog:

Dogs Are Good For Your Heart

Research has shown that having a dog may be linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies indicate dog owners tend to have lower blood pressure and may also have reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels that are unexplained by diet, BMI or smoking. Petting a dog may lower blood pressure and dogs may also help you react to stress better. They also get you moving more which helps improve heart health.

Dogs Are Good For Your Waistline

Being more physically active helps you burn more calories and this can help you keep your weight in check. Numerous studies have suggested that walking your own dog motivates you to walk more but one study even found that people who walked “loaner” dogs lost an average of 14.4 pounds over a year. The participants walked the dogs 5 days a week for 20 minutes at a time and many said they stuck with their walking program because they felt the dogs were relying on them to be walked.

Dogs Are Good For Your Social Life

Having a dog may make it easier for you to connect with others and social interaction is good for your health. This can help keep you happier and healthier, especially as you age.

So if you’re looking for motivation to move more, grab a leash and take Fido for a walk. Not only is the extra activity great for your dog’s health but yours as well!