Exercise as it relates to Disease/Increased physical activity for adult dog owners

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This is an analysis of the journal article "Relationships among dog ownership and leisure-time walking in Western Canadian Adults" by Brown & Rhodes (2006).[1]

What is the background to this research?[edit]

The World Health Organisation defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure”.[2] Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 6% of deaths globally.[2] This is a considerable public health concern on a global scale, which is increasing due to technological advancements that encourage a sedentary lifestyle along with sedentary jobs and sedentary transport,.[3][4]

As physical inactivity levels have increased so have a number of diseases and health conditions that are associated with physical inactivity.[4] Some of these diseases include type 2 diabetes, obesity, some types of cancer and cardiovascular disease to name a few.[3] The elimination of physical inactivity would reduce the world’s cases of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer by 6 – 10%.[5]

As physical inactivity is one of the most modifiable factors that cause disease an intervention strategy is needed to attempt to combat this global problem.[6] Walking is a cost effective, accessible and convenient method of increasing physical activity.[1] More specifically dog ownership could be an intervention strategy to combat physical inactivity, especially in adults willing to take on the responsibility of owning dog as suggested in this study by Brown & Rhodes.[1]

Where is the research from?[edit]

Brown & Rhodes [1] from the University of Victoria, British Columbia conducted this research throughout Western Canada, specifically British Columbia and the Capital Region District of Greater Victoria focusing on an urban setting.

What kind of research was this?[edit]

This is a qualitative research study, involving the use of questionnaires to collect information.

What did the research involve?[edit]

A random sample of 1000 men and women’s home addresses were selected from telephone directories, questionnaires where then mailed out to those individuals. A total of 351 questionnaires were completed and returned, 177 men and 174 women aged between 20–80 years. The participants had to fill out multiple questionnaires that collected information on dog ownership, physical activity, dog obligation and leisure time activity among other data relating to education, ethnicity and income.

Questionnaire Information Collected
Dog ownership Age, size, reason for owning a dog, minutes of dog walking
Physical activity Frequency and intensity of exercise
Walking Frequency and intensity of walking
Dog obligation Commitment to exercise their dog

What were the basic results?[edit]

Brown & Rhodes[1] found that dog owners walked more than non-dog owners, hence had increased levels of physical activity when compared to non-dog owners. Dog owners walked an average of 300 minutes per week where as non-dog owners only walked 168 minutes per week. This increase in physical activity could be associated with the obligation of owning a dog and providing the dog with exercise. Though when this obligation of walking the dog was removed the dog owning adults were less physically active than the non-dog owning adults. This suggests that willingness to accept responsibility for the dog’s health and well-being is a key factor in this relationship, as not all dog owners walked their dogs.

How did the researchers interpret the results?[edit]

The researchers interpretation of the results was that there was a positive correlation between dog ownership and physical activity levels in adults. A few considerations had to be taken into account by the researchers when interpreting the results from this research. This group of individuals were generally more active than the recommended physical activity guidelines and were also from a clean and well-represented population; these two factors may have contributed to these findings.

Often questionnaires are influenced by self reporting bias which can skew results. They rely on truthful responses from participants which can be affected by the individual’s idea of what is a socially acceptable answer and may portray a desirable image of themselves.[7] This needs to be taken into consideration when interpreting these results as individuals may respond as doing more physical activity to be seen as responsible dog owners.

What conclusions should be taken away from this research?[edit]

Dog ownership could potentially be an effective intervention to increase physical activity in the adult population for those who are willing to take on the responsibility of owning a dog. There have been numerous studies that have been conducted since the 1980’s investigating the relationship between pet ownership and a number of different health benefits.[8] In particular there has been an interest in dog ownership and its relation to physical activity. Various studies have supported similar results, indicating that dog ownership can lead to increased levels of physical activity,[9][10],.[11] More recent studies into this area suggest that dog ownership can help overcome some of the barriers to physical activity and provide motivation leading to increased levels of activity.[12] Dog ownership has also been linked to a number of other benefits, not just increasing physical activity but also overall health, psychological health and social health,.[9][10]

What are the implications of this research?[edit]

This research has shown that dog ownership could be an effective intervention strategy to combat physical inactivity and all the associated problems within an adult population. Although in order for this intervention to be successful, individuals need to be willing to accept the responsibility and obligation of owning a dog along with taking into consideration the dog’s health, well-being and inherent needs for exercise.

Further reading[edit]

For further information regarding the benefits of dog ownership on physical activity; click on the links below.


  1. a b c d e Brown S & Rhodes R 2006. Relationships among dog ownership and leisure-time walking in Western Canadian Adults. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 30(2): 131-136
  2. a b World Health Organisation 2015. Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Available from: <http://www.who.int/entity/dietphysicalactivity/pa/en/index.html>
  3. a b Haskell WL, Lee I-M, Pate RR, Powell KE & Blair SN 2007. Physical activity and public health: Updated recommendations for adults from the American Collage of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation. 116(9): 1081-1093. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATION.107.185649
  4. a b Hoehner CM, Brennan-Ramirez LK, Elliot MB, Handy SL & Brownson RC 2005. Perceived and objective environmental measures and physical activity among urban adults. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 28(2): 105-116. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2004.10.023
  5. Lee I-M, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F, Puska P, Blair SN & Katzmarzyk PT 2012. Impact of physical inactivity on the world’s major non-communicable diseases. Lancet. 380(9838): 219-229
  6. Parks SE, Housemann RA & Brownson RC 2003. Differential correlates of physical activity in urban and rural adults of various socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 57: 29-35. doi: 10.1136/jech.57.1.29
  7. Van de Mortel TF 2008. Faking it: social desirability response bias in self-report research. Australian Journal of advanced nursing. 25(4): 40-48
  8. McNicholas J, Gilbey A, Rennie A, Ahmedzai S, Dono J & Ormerod E 2005. Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues. British Medical Journal. 331(7527): 1252-1254
  9. a b Smith B 2012. The ‘pet effect’: Health related aspects of companion. Australian Family Physician. 41(6): 439-442
  10. a b Bauman AE, Russell SJ, Furber SE & Dobson AJ 2001. The epidemiology of dog walking: An unmet need for human and canine health. The Medical Journal of Australia. 175(11-12): 632-634
  11. Christian H, Westgarth C, Bauman A, Richards E, Rhodes R, Evenson K, Mayer J & Thorpe R 2013. Dog ownership and physical activity: A review of the evidence. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 10. 750-759
  12. Ham SA & Epping J 2006. Dog walking and physical activity in the United States. Preventing Chronic Disease. 3(2): A47.