Evaluation of the Dogs, Physical Activity, and Walking (Dogs PAW) Intervention: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Abstract

Background

To facilitate physical activity (PA) adoption and maintenance, promotion of innovative population-level strategies that focus on incorporating moderate-intensity lifestyle PAs are needed.

Objective

The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the Dogs, Physical Activity, and Walking intervention, a 3-month, social cognitive theory (SCT), e-mail-based PA intervention.

Methods

In a longitudinal, repeated-measures design, 49 dog owners were randomly assigned to a control (n = 25) or intervention group (n = 24). The intervention group received e-mail messages (twice weekly for 4 weeks and weekly for 8 weeks) designed to influence SCT constructs of self-efficacy, self-regulation, outcome expectations and expectancies, and social support. At baseline and every 3 months through 1 year, participants completed self-reported questionnaires of individual, interpersonal, and PA variables. Linear mixed models were used to assess for significant differences in weekly minutes of dog walking and theoretical constructs between groups (intervention and control) across time. To test self-efficacy as a mediator of social support for dog walking, tests for mediation were conducted using the bootstrapping technique.

Results

With the exception of Month 9, participants in the intervention group accumulated significantly more weekly minutes of dog walking than the control group. On average, the intervention group accumulated 58.4 more minutes (SD = 18.1) of weekly dog walking than the control group (p < .05). Self-efficacy partially mediated the effect of social support variables on dog walking.

Discussion

Results indicate that a simple SCT-based e-mail intervention is effective in increasing and maintaining an increase in dog walking among dog owners at 12-month follow-up. In light of these findings, it may be advantageous to design dog walking interventions that focus on increasing self-efficacy for dog walking by fostering social support.

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