University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


An online social network to increase walking in dog owners: a randomized trial

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Health Information Technology | Health Psychology


PURPOSE: Encouraging dog walking may increase physical activity in dog owners. This cluster-randomized controlled trial investigated whether a social networking Web site (Meetup) could be used to deliver a multicomponent 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 e-mails with content from the American Heart Association regarding increasing physical activity. 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 postintervention (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-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 American Heart Association 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 2 months of the intervention ending, organization of the Meetup groups transitioned from the study staff to Meetup members.

CONCLUSIONS: 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.


UMCCTS funding

DOI of Published Version



Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Mar;47(3):631-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000441. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Medicine and science in sports and exercise

PubMed ID