Randomized Controlled Theory-Based, E-Mail-Mediated Walking Intervention: Differences Between Dog Owners and Non-Dog Owners
Elizabeth A. Richards, PhD, MSN, RN, CHES
Evaluate the impact of a three-month e-mail based dog walking intervention on the weight, blood pressure and blood lipids of dog owners with known hypertension and/or hyperlipidemia.
- Examine cross-time differences in weekly minutes of dog walking using a longitudinal design.
- Examine the mediating effects of psychosocial variables (self-efficacy, social support, and outcome expectations) on increased dog walking.
- Examine the impact of increased dog walking on the differences across time in the health outcomes for dog owners (weight, blood pressure, blood lipids) and their pet attachment as well as dog weight and overall dog behavior change (reducing impulsivity) through questionnaire, urinary metabolites of serotonin and dopamine.
The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate the ability of a randomized controlled intervention to increase dog walking with a secondary purpose to examine changes in theoretical constructs with changes in dog walking behavior.
The primary expected outcome of this study was supported. Participants randomly assigned to the intervention group showed a significant increase in dog walking when compared with participants in the control group at six and 12 months. At baseline, there were no significant differences in physical activity between groups. At baseline, the control group walked an average of 103.2±99.7 minutes per week and the intervention group walked an average of 132.0±138.4 minutes per week. In addition to overall walking, both groups walked less than 20 minutes per week with their dog. At six months, the intervention group significantly increased their dog walking compared to the control group (intervention=68.4±84.9 vs. control=28.9±30.6 minutes; p<0.05). At 12 months, the intervention group continued to see significant increases in weekly minutes of dog walking (154.2±152.4 minutes) compared to baseline measures and compared to the control group. The control group also significantly increased their dog walking when compared to baseline measures (12 months= 79.2±83.2 vs. baseline= 8.2±10.2 minutes; p<0.05). However, there were no significant differences or changes in theoretical constructs at baseline or across follow-up measures.
A third purpose of this study was to examine the impact of increased dog walking on the differences across time in the health outcomes for the dog owners (weight, blood pressure, and blood lipids). There were no significant changes in weight, blood pressure, or blood lipids between groups or across time.
Findings of the study showed that a simple email intervention sharing the importance of walking and the positive impact of walking on a dog’s health were effective tools to promote walking. These interventions caused participants to increase and maintain dog walking over a 12-month period. Email intervention for non-dog owners also increased weekly minutes of walking compared with baseline measures and control groups, however dog owners accumulated significantly more walking minutes per week than non-dog owners.