Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that affects an estimated 13,000-15,000 Australians, according to Down Syndrome Australia. It is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition, with an estimated 290 babies being born every year with Down Syndrome.

Children and adolescents with Down Syndrome typically have other associated co-morbidities including physical and mental health conditions. Those with Down Syndrome are more likely to be diagnosed with heart defects, Type 2 Diabetes and low thyroid function throughout the course of their life.

Despite these health conditions, exercise has been shown to be significant in improving long-term health and function. Research shows that regular aerobic and strengthening exercises can help individuals with Down Syndrome lead a happy and healthier life.

So how much  exercise should children and adolescents with Down Syndrome be aiming to complete?

Well, the World Health Organisation recommends the following:

  • Children and Adolescents living with disability should do at least an average of 60 minutes per day of moderate-vigorous intensity, mostly aerobic, physical activity across the week.
  • Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, as well as those that strengthen muscle and bone should be incorporated at least 3 days per week.

It might be hard to determine what vigorous and moderate intensity exercise actually means. It’s also important to remember that individuals with Down Syndrome typically have a lower cardiac capacity so they may tire easily. In this instance, using heart rate to determine intensity might not be appropriate. Instead, consider using an easy 1-10 scale of effort. The higher the perceived effort of out 10, the harder you are working.

Bone loading exercise may also look different depending on the age of the individual. For younger children it may be hopping, jumping and landing. As we age, this may look more like traditional strength based exercises. Be sure to ask your Exercise Professional if you aren’t sure what is appropriate.

This might seem absolutely unachievable for some, so consider the following instead:

  • Doing some physical activity is better than none.
  • If children and adolescents are not meeting the above recommendations, doing some physical activity will still bring benefits to health.
  • Start by doing small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase the frequency, intensity and duration over time.
  • There are no major risks for engaging in physical activity when it is appropriate to the individuals activity level, health status and physical function and the benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks.

The moral of the story is: something is better than nothing, and often, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Need help getting started? Contact our team of Exercise Physiologists today to see how we can help.




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