Exercise as it relates to Disease/The benefits of exercise in Down Syndrome

What is Down SyndromeEdit

Down syndrome is one of the single largest subgroups of individuals with a moderate to severe intellectual disability. Down syndrome is due to an extra chromosome 21, three instead of two. Children when born can be recognised straight away with their facial features of the upward slanting eyes and the snub nose.[1]

Effects of Down SyndromeEdit

Down syndrome people vary in:

  • Personalities,
  • Abilities,
  • Interests,
  • Behaviour,
  • Social skills and
  • Self-management.

Some Down syndrome people suffer from sleep apnoea as a result of nocturnal breathing problems, and through being overweight. There is a tendency for individuals with Down syndrome to lose some their abilities as they move from adolescence into adulthood.[2]

Prevalence of Down SyndromeEdit

Approximately 1 child in every 700 to 1000 live births has the syndrome. The risk of having a child with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother; there is a 1 in 2000 chances that the child will be down syndrome if the mother is in her 20s, 1 in 1000 chance if the mother is in her 30s, but a 1 in 20 chance of the child having Down syndrome if the mother is above 45. More than 44 per cent of Down syndrome people have a heart condition, 60 per cent have a vision problem and 66 percent have a hearing defect.

Explanation of the effects in Down SyndromeEdit

People with Down syndrome have a lower level of cardiovascular fitness than the rest of the community.[3] The physiological characteristics of the Down syndrome individuals show that the limitations and the restriction to both cardiovascular and resistance based exercise, with a poor skeletal muscle development. Show that reduced exercise capacity is having an effect on the people with Down syndrome.[4] Compared to the rest of the community it is suggested that the thought of the poor cardiovascular fitness puts people with down syndrome at a greater risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and obesity.[5]

Sedentary behaviour as well as the physical behaviour commonly associated with the condition of the weakness in the muscular system. Which leads to a higher prevalence of heart defects and circulatory abnormalities, low maximal heart rates and pulmonary abnormalities have been suggested as a reason for their poor levels of physical fitness [6] The number of increases of community- dwelling individuals, who may live a benefit life from structured exercise interventions to remain productive and healthy but with the reduced exercise capacity this causes the people with Down syndrome from childhood to adulthood to suffer in everyday life. The need and the increase interest into the investigation of the causes, effects and management of reduced exercise capacity has been developing and implementation of a specific exercise program to improve the cardiovascular fitness and ultimately the health and physical activity of the people who have Down syndrome, to perform functional tasks in everyday living.[7][8]


People with Down syndrome usually achieve during exercise using relatively large muscle mass and represents the integrative ability of the heart to generate a higher cardiac output. The peak of exercise capacity of people with Down syndrome produce a lower VO2peak, shorter time exhaustion and a lower peak work rate in these individuals compared to non-down syndrome people.[9]

Types of ExercisesEdit

The types of exercises that benefit the person with Down Syndrome vary, but with this varying in activities this leads towards a more fun going exercise which keeps the people with down syndrome more motivated to exercise and become less sedentary.

    • Types of exercises include:
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Playing Ball
  • Biking
  • Aerobics
  • Rope Jumping
  • Training Programs

With these exercises, there is a significant difference in the individual’s benefits. People with Down syndrome reportedly give more energy once exercised. As well joint pain and stiffness decrease once the individual has exercised.[10]

    • Training Programs

Training programs that can suit the individual is a 45 minute session 3 times a week (30 minutes of cardiovascular training and 15 minutes of strength training). With this it has shown an increase in the cardiovascular fitness and the muscular strength and endurance, as well there can be a reduction in body weight.[11]

Benefits of ExerciseEdit

Exercise is a beneficial for the people with Down syndrome. Benefits have shown that physical activity/Exercise included improvements in aerobic capacity, improvements in the muscular strength and endurance, improvements in the gross motor functions, and in high levels of participants. Having researchers out there, parents of a child with Down syndrome will more likely provide their child with the opportunity of participating in physical activity because the benefits are proven.[12] For adults with Down Syndrome the benefits of exercise can reduce the pain levels and even lead to improvements in self-esteem. Not only the reduction in the pain levels, which is one of the main factors/issues individuals don’t exercise but it doesn’t just improve that but their range of motion increases and encourages participation in recreational and social activities.[13]

Further readingEdit

Here are some websites that can help show what is Down syndrome and the community surrounding the people with the disability. 


  1. Westwood, P. S. (2009). Specific Syndromes (Down syndrome): What teachers need to know about Students with disabilities pp 21-24
  2. Westwood, P. S. (2009). Specific Syndromes (Down syndrome): What teachers need to know about Students with disabilities pp 21-24
  3. http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0003999305004843/1-s2.0-S0003999305004843-main.pdf?_tid=7ff64924-37d1-11e4-bebc-00000aab0f6c&acdnat=1410233546_23121953a4d5529ae56d8af6efa81610
  4. http://www.intellectualdisability.info/physical-health/the-benefits-of-exercise-to-a-downs-syndrome-population
  5. http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0003999305004843/1-s2.0-S0003999305004843-main.pdf?_tid=7ff64924-37d1-11e4-bebc-00000aab0f6c&acdnat=1410233546_23121953a4d5529ae56d8af6efa81610
  6. http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0003999305004843/1-s2.0-S0003999305004843-main.pdf?_tid=7ff64924-37d1-11e4-bebc-00000aab0f6c&acdnat=1410233546_23121953a4d5529ae56d8af6efa81610
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3012449/
  8. http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0003999305004843/1-s2.0-S0003999305004843-main.pdf?_tid=7ff64924-37d1-11e4-bebc-00000aab0f6c&acdnat=1410233546_23121953a4d5529ae56d8af6efa81610
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3012449/
  10. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1300/J083v38n01_03
  11. http://www.aaiddjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1352/0895-8017%282004%29109%3C165%3AIIPFIA%3E2.0.CO%3B2
  12. http://zh9bf5sp6t.scholar.serialssolutions.com/?sid=google&auinit=CC&aulast=Johnson&atitle=The+benefits+of+physical+activity+for+youth+with+developmental+disabilities:+a+systematic+review&id=doi:10.4278/ajhp.070930103&title=American+journal+of+health+promotion&volume=23&issue=3&date=2009&spage=157&issn=0890-1171
  13. http://zh9bf5sp6t.scholar.serialssolutions.com/?sid=google&auinit=ELI&aulast=CARMELI&atitle=Impact+of+a+walking+program+in+people+with+down+syndrome.&id=pmid:14971963