Dog walking among adolescents: Correlates and contribution to physical activity
- Published on Nov. 19, 2015
Purpose: To assess the association of dog walking with adolescents’ moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and body mass index (BMI), and identify correlates of dog walking.
Methods/design: Participants were 12–17 year-olds (n = 925) from the Baltimore, MD and Seattle, WA regions. Differences in accelerometer-assessed minutes/day of MVPA and self-reported BMI (percentile) were compared among adolescents (1) without a dog (n = 441) and those with a dog who (2) did (≥ 1 days/week, n = 300) or (3) did not (n = 184) walk it. Correlates of (1) dog walking (any vs. none) among adolescents with dogs (n = 484), and (2) days/week of dog walking among dog walkers (n = 300) were investigated. Potential correlates included: demographic, psychosocial, home environment, perceived neighborhood environment, and objective neighborhood environment factors.
Results: 52% of adolescents lived in a household with a dog, and 62% of those reported dog walking ≥ 1 day/week. Dog walkers had 4–5 more minutes/day of MVPA than non-dog-walkers and non-dog-owners. BMI was not associated with dog walking or ownership. Among households with dogs, adolescents who lived in objectively walkable neighborhoods were 12% more likely to walk their dog than those in less walkable neighborhoods. Among dog walkers, having a multi-family home, college-educated parent, lower perceived traffic safety, higher street connectivity and less mixed use were related to more days/week of dog walking.
Conclusions: Dog walkers had 7–8% more minutes/day of MVPA than non-dog walkers, and correlates of dog walking were found at multiple levels of influence. Results suggest multilevel interventions that include both environmental and psychosocial components to increase dog walking should be evaluated.