October 25, 2019
A publication from Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Katie Potter has been selected as an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Editors’ Pick. The article, titled “Dogs as Support and Motivation for Physical Activity,” originally appeared in the July issue of Current Sports Medicine Reports, the official clinical review journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
In the paper, Potter and co-author Melanie Sartore-Baldwin of East Carolina University provide an overview of dog walking research performed to date and discuss unanswered research questions, noting that “dog walking interventions may be a highly practical approach to population-level physical activity promotion.” They note that dog walking fits well with the field’s new focus on constructs like habit and identity for creating long-term, sustainable physical activity maintenance.
Potter’s publication was invited after her tutorial lecture of the same title at the 2018 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Minneapolis. The lecture and subsequent publication served as a follow-up examination to a 2011 review paper by Jacqueline Epping. In that previous paper, Epping identified dog walking as a practical, accessible, highly sustainable form of physical activity with great relevance to population-level promotion efforts. The authors bolster Epping's argument by demonstrating that “dog walking fits well with contemporary thinking on how best to promote sustainable physical activity.”
They conclude that, “although a strong fit in theory, more studies are needed to confirm that positive affective judgments and strong habits around dog walking, as well as dog walking identity, predict dog walking behavior…. Moving forward, it will be important to determine whether getting a dog causes increases in physical activity (without any additional intervention).”
They add, “Rigorous scientific evidence demonstrating that dogs cause their owners to engage in more physical activity could support programs and policies that make dog ownership accessible to more people.”
A member of the UMass Amherst faculty since 2016, Potter is an expert in exercise psychology and behavioral interventions. Her research focuses on studying the mental, social, and physical health benefits of the human-animal bond, and designing and testing interventions that promote dog walking.
Visit the UMass Behavioral Medicine Lab for more information on Potter’s current research.