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Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Purpose: Physical activity (PA) and mental health decline in winter. One potential mechanism to improve PA and mental health is dog walking. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the impact of dog walking on mental health and seasonal changes in PA. Methods: Participants (n=50; 34 dog owners, 16 non-dog owners) wore an Actigraph accelerometer and logged all PA (including dog walking) for one week per season. They also completed mental health surveys during their initial data collection week (baseline). Using baseline data, analyses were run to see if daily dog walkers (those who reported dog walking 6+ days/week; n=20) had more PA and better mental health than non-daily dog walkers (those who reported dog walking ≤5 days/week; n=26). Analyses were also run to see if summer daily dog walkers (n=15) better maintained their PA levels from summer to winter compared to summer non-daily dog walkers (n=21), and whether dog walking automaticity predicted PA and seasonal changes in PA. Results: Daily dog walkers took 2,900 more steps/day (p=0.01), but there was no difference in MVPA/week (p=.07) or in odds of meeting PA guidelines (p=0.25). There was no difference in perceived stress or depressive symptoms between groups (p=0.41 and 0.12, respectively). Being a summer daily dog walker did not predict a smaller change in PA from summer to winter (p=0.63). Finally, a higher dog walking automaticity was predictive of higher daily steps (p=0.02) but not meeting PA guidelines (p=0.15) or maintaining PA from summer to winter (p=0.63). Conclusion: In this study, daily dog walkers took more steps than non-daily dog walkers, but they did not have better mental health and still observed a decrease in PA from summer to winter. Future research with larger, more diverse samples is needed to understand the impact routine dog walking has on mental health and seasonal PA changes.


First Advisor

Katie Potter