Exercise as it relates to Disease/Putting a leash on your health

This is an analysis of the journal article "Understanding Dog Owners' Increased Levels of Physical Activity: Results from RESIDE" by H. Cutt et al (2008).[1]

Image By David Lally

What is the background to this research?

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Statement defined physical activity as "any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure and produces progressive health benefits" [2]

According to the ABS, the leading cause of death in Australia in 2014 was Ischaemic Heart Disease.[3] It has been shown that obesity is linked to Cardiovascular disease (i.e. Ischaemic Heart Disease) and this can be measured through a person's BMI. The World Heart Federation states that 58% of diabetes and 21% of ischaemic heart disease cases are linked to a BMI of above 21.[4] physical activity interventions is the simplest way to lower BMI.

Physical activity can also assist with reducing a person's risk of cancer, preventing osteoporosis and general health decline.[5] Physical activity has been linked to reducing the risk of Colon cancer and Breast cancer which are among the most common cancers affecting Australians.[6]

Walking is the most cost and time effective exercise intervention. It is suitable for all ages, and overall may reduce Australia's obesity statistics.[5] As suggested by the study conducted by Cutt et al, owning a dog can also increase the frequency of physical activity among owners[1]

Where is the research from?Edit

H. Cutt, et al[1] from the University of Western Australia, conducted this research in the RESIDential Environment project area in Perth, Australia.

"What type of research was this?"Edit

This was a cross-sectional study of participants who were involved in the first phase of the RESIDE project (September 2003 - March 2005). The data was collected through the use of a questionnaire with the aim of collecting self-reported physical activity and walking data over the course of a week.[1]

"What did the research involve?"Edit

The study involved 1813 participants of the RESIDE Project in Perth who were aged between 19 to 78 years and 40.5% of participants were men. Participants provided information about whether they owned a dog, how often they walked in a week and other physical activities they did.

Table 1: Information CollectedEdit

Questionnaire Information Collected
Individual's Details Age, Marital Status, Employment/Occupation, Income, Type of Residence
Dog Ownership Do they own a dog? Frequency of walking.
Physical Activity Frequency, Duration and Intensity
Walking Activity Frequency, Duration and Purpose of Walk


"What were the basic results?"Edit

Cutt et al,[1] found 44% of their survey participants owned a dog and majority were women. It is also key to note the dog owners prioritised ease of access to parks and nature reserves when choosing a neighbourhood. The study showed that dog owners had more intentions to do physical activity than non owners. Dog owners also displayed more discipline in regards to adhering to physical activity goals, planning schedules and behavioural control. The average dog owner (23% of owners) walked 2.6 times per week, whereas the rest either did not walk their dog or did so 5 or more times a week. Most walking sessions in the neighbourhood involved walking a dog for a duration of 30mins.

Overall, dog owners were more physically active than non dog owners.

"What conclusions can we take from this research?"Edit

This research suggests dog ownership can play an important role in individuals lives in terms of physical activity. Owners who feel a responsibility to exercise their dogs were found to be more disciplined and engaged in physical activity. Whilst it is still possible for non dog owners to be physically active, dog owners are more likely to engage in walking even when they are busy in other aspects of their life. Various studies have found correlations between pet ownership and health benefits such as cardiovascular disease.[8] Dog ownership has also been linked to health benefits for children growing up with pets.[9] Other studies also suggest links between improved overall quality of life, psychological and social health.[10]

"Practical advice"Edit

The Department of Health Australia recommend at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity a week, for example walking a dog 5 times a week.[11] This research has demonstrated dog ownership can increase physical activity. Programs encouraging dog ownership or walking will not only encourage individuals to take responsibility for their health and their pets health, but improve overall quality of life. Further research is needed to examine the benefits of owning other pets (e.g. cats).

"Further information/resources"Edit

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

An unmet need for human and canine health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11837871

Dog ownership and physical activity: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=nursingpubs

Physical activity and pet ownership in year 3 of the Health ABC Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19462546

Reference ListEdit

  1. a b c d e Cutt, H., Giles-Corti, B., Knuiman, M., Timperio, A. and Bull, F. (2008). Understanding Dog Owners’ Increased Levels of Physical Activity: Results From RESIDE. Am J Public Health, 98(1), pp.66-69.
  2. Health.gov.au. (2016). Department of Health | Definitions. [online] Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/phd-physical-rec-older-disc~Definitions [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016].
  3. Abs.gov.au. (2016). 3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia, 2014. [online] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3303.0 [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016].
  4. World-heart-federation.org. (2016). Cardiovascular disease risk factors - Obesity | World Heart Federation. [online] Available at: http://www.world-heart-federation.org/cardiovascular-health/cardiovascular-disease-risk-factors/obesity/ [Accessed 24 Aug. 2016].
  5. a b Cdc.gov. (2015). Physical Activity and Health | Physical Activity | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/ [Accessed 26 Aug. 2016].
  6. Australia, C. (2016). FAQ - Cancer Council Australia. [online] Cancer.org.au. Available at: http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/faq.html [Accessed 26 Aug. 2016].
  7. Giles-Corti, B., Timperio, A. and Cute, H. (2006). Giles-Corti B, Timperio A, Cutt H, et al. Development of a reliable measure of walking within and outside the local neighborhood: RESIDE’s Neighborhood Physical Activity Questionnaire. Prev Med. 2006;42:455–459. 6th ed. [ebook] pp.455-459. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16574208 [Accessed 24 Sep. 2016].
  8. McNicholas, J. (2005). Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues. BMJ, [online] 331(7527), pp.1252-1254. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1289326/ [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016].
  9. Kb.rspca.org.au. (2015). What are the health benefits of pet ownership? - RSPCA Australia knowledgebase. [online] Available at: http://kb.rspca.org.au/what-are-the-health-benefits-of-pet-ownership_408.html [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016].
  10. Racgp.org.au. (2012). RACGP - The pet effect. [online] Available at: http://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2012/june/the-pet-effect/ [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016].
  11. Health.gov.au. (2014). Department of Health | Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. [online] Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#apaadult [Accessed 26 Sep. 2016].