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Dog Ownership and Physical Activity: A Review of the Evidence

2013, 10, 750 – 759


Background: Dog walking is a strategy for increasing population levels of physical activity (PA). Numerous cross-sectional studies of the relationship between dog ownership and PA have been conducted. The purpose was to review studies comparing PA of dog owners (DO) to nondog owners (NDO), summarize the prevalence of dog walking, and provide recommendations for research. Methods: A review of published studies (1990–2010) examining DO and NDO PA and the prevalence of dog walking was conducted (N = 29). Studies estimating the relationship between dog ownership and PA were grouped to create a point-estimate using meta-analysis. Results: Most studies were conducted in the last 5 years, were cross-sectional, and sampled adults from Australia or the United States. Approximately 60% of DO walked their dog, with a median duration and frequency of 160 minutes/week and 4 walks/week, respectively. Meta-analysis showed DO engage in more walking and PA than NDO and the effect sizes are small to moderate (d = 0.26 and d = 0.16, respectively). Three studies provided evidence of a directional relationship between dog ownership and walking. Conclusions: Longitudinal and interventional studies would provide stronger causal evidence for the relationship between dog ownership and PA. Improved knowledge of factors associated with dog walking will guide intervention research.

Keywords: walking, dog, dog walking, recreational activity, meta-analysis

Authors: Hayley E. Christian, Carri Westgarth, Elizabeth A. Richards, Ryan E. Rhodes, Kelly R. Evenson, Joni A. Mayer, Roland J. Thorpe, Jr., Roland J. Thorpe, Jr.

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