Effects of exercise on people diagnosis with Down Syndrome

“The difference between ordinary and Extraordinary is just that little bit EXTRA” – Unknown


Most people are aware of Down syndrome (DS) and can generally pick out a person who has DS, but did you know how many people are diagnosed with DS? Down syndrome Australia’s most recent statics display that over 13,000 people living in Australia have been diagnosed.  For Australia’s current population that is just over 0.05%, which means having the privilege of crossing paths with a DS person is quite slim. As World Down syndrome day is the 21st of March we are going to talk further about the effects of exercise on people diagnosed with Down syndrome.


However, if you have had the privilege, you will know how energetic and happy someone with DS generally is. Somethings you may not know about people with DS, is they are more likely to have lower general immunity, be overweight, suffer from congenital heart failure and early aging, which also increases their risk of developing further chronic comorbidities. Glasson et al (2014), states the five common comorbidities affecting adults with DS are visual and hearing defects, epilepsy, thyroid disorder and Alzheimer disease, at specific age intervals.


Although this would weigh a “normal” person down, it does not seem to affect people with DS. Most are willing to try just about anything and are always up for fun and a good laugh. Due to the increased risk of comorbidities it is important for people with DS to be fit and healthy. In the 50’s, life expectancy of someone with DS was 15 years of age! Now days that seems obscured and outrageous however, if it wasn’t for research and modern-day health interventions this could have possibly been the expectancy today.


An important health intervention, and one that is heaps of fun, is exercise. DS people have a lot of energy to burn off and enjoy being physically challenged, but most of all they LOVE to have fun. Exercise does not have to be monotonous and boring, especially when you have such an activate and fun-loving population.


A study performed by Mendonca et al (2011) showed that adults with DS experience similar peaks in exercise performance, including exercise capacity and muscle strength, as people without a disability. This study involved their participants performing 3 days of exercise per week for 12 weeks of combined exercise. The term combined exercises include both resistance exercises and cardio exercises. With completing exercise people with DS will also lower their risk of developing further chronic conditions like coronary artery disease.


As an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, we know a lot of exercises and many ways in which we can make those fun. One main way is to create an active circuit and have clients performing different exercises at each station and linking these exercising to everyday activities. Also ensuring a wide variety and never doing the same thing twice. We also crank up the music and incorporate dancing and singing to maximise the fun factor. Exercise is not a one shoe fits all therapy and people who do suffer with Chronic conditions are suggested to speak with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for safe options.


Activate Health – For all ages, abilities and disabilities.