The low percentage of Canadian adults who are sufficiently active is of concern in light of the detrimental health consequences associated with insufficient physical activity. Two studies were conducted in order to explore dog walking as a means of obtaining physical activity and the possible health benefits from dog walking. In Study 1, dog walking was examined from three perspectives through a week-long study of 61 regular dog walkers. First, summary statistics revealed that slightly more than half of the time spent dog walking was at a moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA1) level and approximately 2 in 5 dog owners met the Canadian physical activity guideline through dog walking alone. Second, analyses revealed that an important factor affecting time spent dog walking at a MVPA1 level is the size of the dog, as it is a factor that individuals who are acquiring a dog can take into consideration. Another key finding was that all of the dog walkers reported that they walk their dog for its well-being, which indicates that dog walking is a purposeful physical activity. This suggests that dog walking should be promoted in terms of its benefits for the dog. Third, analyses comparing dog walkers' psychological health before and after their dog walks revealed an improvement on six out of seven psychological health measures. In Study 2, results from an 8-month longitudinal study revealed that, as hypothesized, participants who acquired a dog (n = 17) increased their MVPA1 from baseline to 8 months, while there was no change in the control group (n = 28). Contrary to expectations, although individuals in the acquired-dog group became more active over time, they did not experience any improvements in their physical or psychological health over the course of the study relative to the control group. Taken together, these findings suggest that promoting dog walking may be one way of increasing physical activity. The short-term health benefits that occur after dog walking need to be explored further, while the possible long-term health benefits need to be examined using a larger sample over a longer time frame.
|Department||Department of Psychology|
|Degree||Doctor of Philosophy|
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