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Dog Ownership from a Life Course Perspective and Leisure-time Physical Activity in Late Adulthood: The Helsinki Birth Cohort Study

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We investigated the association between dog ownership during the life course and leisure-time PA (LTPA) in late adulthood.


We included 714 participants (mean age = 70.8 ± 2.6 years) from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study (HBCS). Dog ownership for every decade of life, current dog ownership, and current LTPA in metabolic equivalents of task (MET) were assessed with questionnaires. Age and sex adjusted generalized estimating equation models and analysis of regression were applied for the analyses.


No significant age by dog ownership interaction on total, conditioning or non-conditioning LTPA was found (p ≥ .68). However, after the age of 40 years, dog ownership was increasingly associated with greater total and non-conditioning LTPA in later life. The mean difference in total LTPA, which was mostly explained by non-conditioning LTPA, was largest between the current dog owners and non-owners (15.2 MET-hours/week, 95% CI: 5.5‐24.8, p = .002).


Current dog ownership is associated with 15.2 MET-hours/week greater total LTPA compared to the non-owners. The differences were already observable after the age of 40. Thus, dog ownership induced increase in LTPA can have a positive influence on the aging processes and consequently positively influence healthy active aging.
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Keywords: dog ownership; dog walking; leisure-time physical activity; lifetime perspective; physical activity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2018

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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