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An online social network to increase walking in dog owners: a randomized trial

By K. L. Schneider, D. Murphy, C. Ferrara, J. Oleski, E. Panza, C. Savage, K. Gada, B. Bozzella, E. Olendzki, D. Kern, S. C. Lemon

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Purpose: Encouraging dog walking may increase physical activity in dog owners. This cluster-randomized controlled trial investigated whether a social networking Web site (Meetup TM) could be used to deliver a multicomponent dog walking intervention to increase physical activity. Methods: Sedentary dog owners ( n=102) participated. Eight neighborhoods were randomly assigned to the Meetup TM condition (Meetup TM) or a condition where participants received monthly e-mails with content from the American Heart Association regarding increasing physical activity. The Meetup TM intervention was delivered over 6 months and consisted of newsletters, dog walks, community events, and an activity monitor. The primary outcome was steps; secondary outcomes included social support for walking, sense of community, perceived dog walking outcomes, barriers to dog walking, and feasibility of the intervention. Results: Mixed-model analyses examined change from baseline to postintervention (6 months) and whether change in outcomes differed by condition. Daily steps increased over time ( P=0.04, d=0.28), with no differences by condition. The time-condition interaction was significant for the perceived outcomes of dog walking ( P=0.04, d=0.40), such that the Meetup TM condition reported an increase in the perceived positive outcomes of dog walking, whereas the American Heart Association condition did not. Social support, sense of community, and dog walking barriers did not significantly change. Meetup TM logins averaged 58.38 per week (SD, 11.62). Within 2 months of the intervention ending, organization of the Meetup TM groups transitioned from the study staff to Meetup TM members. Conclusions: Results suggest that a Meetup TM group is feasible for increasing physical activity in dog owners. Further research is needed to understand how to increase participation in the Meetup TM group and facilitate greater connection among dog owners.

Publication Title Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise
Volume 47
Issue 3
Pages 631-639
ISBN/ISSN 0195-9131
DOI 10.1249/mss.0000000000000441
Language English
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Canidae
  3. Canine
  4. Carnivores
  5. controlled trials
  6. Dogs
  7. Health Promotion
  8. Humans
  9. Hygiene
  10. Internet
  11. Mammals
  12. Men
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Pets and companion animals
  15. physical activity
  16. Primates
  17. social media
  18. Telecommunications
  19. vertebrates
  20. Walking
  1. peer-reviewed