HABRI Research Finds Emails to Dog Owners Prompts More Exercise

The jury’s in and (cue the drum roll please) exercise is good!

We’re not talking the personal trainer, sweat the crunch and feel the burn kind of exercise but good old fashioned walking. Ideally with a leash and a furry companion tugging at the end, but solo works too and both were the catalyst behind a recent study conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation.

Led by researchers at Purdue University and published in the journal Clinical Nursing Research, HABRI’s goal was to determine whether regular email prompts would help induce both dog-owning and non-dog-owning participants to hit the bricks more frequently.

Related: People Who Love Their Pets Most Know How Beneficial They Are

Test subjects received twice-weekly email prompts for the first four weeks of the study with messaging designed to encourage and influence those with pooches to walk them and those without pooches to simply get out and move. Apparently past studies had determined that dog owners who walk their dogs do so for the well-being of their four-legged companion, not themselves. In fact dog owners who participated in the first study reported they were able to maintain this new exercise regimen primarily because their dog now expected it. This new survey wanted to gauge whether the activity could be triggered and maintained out of a desire for improved personal fitness.

At the end of the study the findings showed the email prompts were in fact effective influences with both test subjects who were walking dogs (increasing and maintaining their walking schedule for the entire 12 month test period) and non-dog walkers (increasing their weekly walking minutes).

Related: Research Shows Pet Ownership Saves $11.7 Billion In Health Care Costs

Elizabeth A. Richards, PhD, RN, CHES, of Purdue University was principal investigator on the study and feels the positive results gained from a basic email prompt bodes well for improving lifestyles for both two- and four-legged walkers. “Because an email reminder is so simple, these findings should be easy to replicate, encouraging dog owners and non-dog owners alike to lead more physically active lifestyles.”

But there’s more. Those test subjects with a pooch in tow racked up significantly more walking minutes per week, drawing a clear correlation between their desire for physical activity and their sense of responsibility to care for their dog. According to HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman, “With more than 50 million dog-owning households in America, the scientifically-documented link between dog ownership and physical activity has the potential to positively impact public health on a broad scale”.


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