Short term exercise programme improves muscle strength and agility in adolescents with Down syndrome


The benefits of exercise for a healthy lifestyle are now well understood. However, there are issues relating to the physiology of people with Down syndrome which might suggest limitations to the extent to which they can engage in cardiovascular or resistance exercises. we also know that many people with Down syndrome are overweight or obese.

This Taiwanese study set out to look at the effects of a strength and agility training programme for a group of adolescents with Down syndrome.

The researchers randomly allocated 92 young people with Down syndrome into to two groups, one an intervention group, the other a control group. The training programme consisted of a 5 minute treadmill exercise and a 20 minute ‘virtual-reality’ based activity three times a week for 6 weeks. The researchers took a number of measurements of muscle strength and agility performance before and after the introduction of the programme.

What they found was that those in the exercise intervention group had significant improvements in agility and muscle strength of all muscle group in comparison to those in the control group at the end of the six week progamme. They found the greatest gains in knee muscle groups.

These resuts are clearly short term gains, and the researchers in this study did not carry out any longer term follow up to look at any impact on lifestyle, but they are able to conclude that the short-term exercise training programme was able to improve muscle strength and agility performance of adolescents with Down syndrome.

Strength and agility training in adolescents with Down syndrome: A randomized controlled trial, Hsiu-Ching Lin,  & Yee-Pay Wuang in Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33, 6, 2236–2244

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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