Online Program

Use of an online social network to increase walking among dog owners: Results of a pilot RCT and preliminary intervention sustainability

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 3:10 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Kristin Schneider, Ph.D., Psychology, Rosalind Franklin University, North Chicago, IL
Clara Savage, EdD, MA Dept of Public Health CHNA8, Common Pathways, Worcester, MA
Emily Panza, Division of Preventive & Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
Stephenie Lemon, PhD, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
Dog walking is a potential strategy for increasing physical activity in dog owners, though effective interventions have not been established. Dog walking barriers include being unaware of canine health benefits and poor social support for dog walking. Community-based online social networks hold potential for addressing potential barriers by creating a supportive network for sharing information and organizing walks. We developed and tested a 6-month intervention that used a social networking website (Meetup) to facilitate dog walking. Eight neighborhoods in two cities were randomized to the intervention (n=45) or a physical activity website control condition (n=57). Multivariate mixed linear models examined the impact of condition on change from baseline to 6 months in pedometer steps, sense of community and positive attitudes about dog walking. Results revealed a significant increase in pedometer steps (t=2.07, p=.04). Though the time by condition interaction was not significant, the mean change in steps was almost twice as great in the intervention (MeanΔ=996.76) compared to the control [(MeanΔ=522.33) (Cohen's d=.66)]. There was a significant increase in the sense of community (t=3.41, p=.001) and positive attitudes (t=2.13, p=.04) about dog walking for the intervention, whereas no change was observed in the control [(t=1.62, p=.11; t=0.63, p=.54, respectively) (t=2.29, p=.02 and t=2.02, p=.04, respectively for the timeXcondition interaction)]. Sustainability of the intervention is also promising; both Meetup groups expanded to over 160 users and are self-organized. Using a social networking site to promote dog walking shows promise for increasing physical activity in dog owners and is potentially highly sustainable.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the benefits of dog walking to dogs and their owners for increasing physical activity and social support. List barriers to dog walking related to lack of knowledge and social support. Explain the role of online social network as a promising, sustainable approach to promoting physical activity among dog walkers

Keyword(s): Physical Activity, Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal or co-investigator of multiple federally funded grants that aim to increase physical activity in sedentary populations. My research interests have expanded to using technology (e.g., online social networks, health video games) for health promotion. I am the PI of this funded project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.