PURPOSE: Encouraging dog walking may increase physical activity in dog owners. This cluster randomized controlled trial investigated whether a social networking website (Meetup(TM)) could be used to deliver a multi-component dog walking intervention to increase physical activity.
METHODS: Sedentary dog owners (n=102) participated. Eight neighborhoods were randomly assigned to the Meetup condition (Meetup) or a condition where participants received monthly emails with content from the American Heart Association on increasing physical activity (AHA). The Meetup intervention was delivered over 6 months and consisted of newsletters, dog walks, community events and an activity monitor. The primary outcome was steps; secondary outcomes included social support for walking, sense of community, perceived dog walking outcomes, barriers to dog walking and feasibility of the intervention.
RESULTS: Mixed model analyses examined change from baseline to post-intervention (6 months) and whether change in outcomes differed by condition. Daily steps increased over time (p=0.04, d=0.28), with no differences by condition. The time x condition interaction was significant for the perceived outcomes of dog walking (p=0.04, d=0.40), such that the Meetup condition reported an increase in the perceived positive outcomes of dog walking, whereas the AHA condition did not. Social support, sense of community and dog walking barriers did not significantly change. Meetup logins averaged 58.38 per week (SD=11.62). Within two months of the intervention ending, organization of the Meetup groups transitioned from study staff to Meetup members.
CONCLUSION: Results suggest that a Meetup group is feasible for increasing physical activity in dog owners. Further research is needed to understand how to increase participation in the Meetup group and facilitate greater connection among dog owners.
(C) 2014 American College of Sports Medicine