The authors of this study were interested to explore the barriers that might exist to enabling children with Down syndrome to do the recommended amount of daily physical activity. They were also interested to explore what might be facilitators to physical activity for this group.
They carried out in-depth interviews with 20 parents (16 mothers, 4 fathers) of children with Down syndrome aged between 2 and 17.
Analysis of the content of the interviews revealed four themes on facilitators of physical activity which were
- the positive role of the family
- opportunity for social interaction with peers
- structured accessible programmes with adaptations for children with Down syndrome
- children who were determined to succeed and physically skilled.
They also identified four themes related to the barriers to physical activity which were
- characteristics commonly associated with Down syndrome
- competing family responsibilities
- reduced physical or behavioural skills
- lack of accessible programmes.
The authors conclude from their results that the role of families in determining how much physical activity children with Down syndrome undertake is clearly important. They recommend future research concentrates on methods of encouraging physical activity, for example ensuring social interaction is part of the activity and on ways to eliminate the barriers to physical activity found in the study
They suggest that implementing such strategies could encourage more frequent participation in exercise by children with Down syndrome, resulting in a more physically active lifestyle.
Identifying the barriers and facilitators to participation in physical activity for children with Down syndrome, Barr, M. & Shields, N, in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55:1020–1033.