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The Importance Of Strength Training In Children With Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is a chromosomal or genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21, trisomy 21. Individuals with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21 rather than two like their neurotypical peers. 

Children with Down Syndrome have physical and developmental differences, including hypotonia. Hypotonia refers to low muscle tone and reduced resistance to passive movement, contributing to the feeling of “floppiness” or “looseness”.

Whilst some children may have reduced strength, hypotonia is not the same as muscle weakness, some children with Down Syndrome can be quite strong despite having low muscle tone.

By Nicole Adamson
Exercise Physiologist

Down syndrome Exercise

Hypotonia: What To Know

Hypotonia can contribute to poor posture, difficulty with mobility, reduced coordination, joint and ligament laxity and hypermobility, poor reflexes, delayed milestone achievements crawling, sitting, walking, rolling), breathing and speech difficulties, and reduced endurance and stamina.


Research has demonstrated multiple benefits for children with Down Syndrome engaging in regular strength training as part of their therapy routine. Strength training involves using exercises and movements that place the muscle under resistance. This can be using body weight, resistance bands, gravity, weight and vibration machines such as a hypervibe.

 

Below are some of the benefits of strength training and how they can positively contribute to greater function and physical capacity in children living with Down Syndrome.

“…children with Down Syndrome can be quite strong despite having low muscle tone.”

The Benefits Of Strength Training:

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Increases to overall strength:

Strength training has been shown to increase a child’s overall strength, with some articles also showing some increases in muscle tone. Increases in strength and tone for children with Down syndrome can also contribute to improved movement and ability to complete activities of daily living

 

Improved posture and trunk stability:

Exercises that focus on targeting a child’s postural muscles (deep abdominal muscles,
muscles of the pelvis, and back muscles) can assist with better posture and trunk
control. Improving a child’s posture and trunk stability can contribute to an
increased ability to sit independently for extended periods, which can
translate to better engagement with school and play. Increased trunk stability
can also contribute to improvements with gait and ability to complete
transitions such as sitting to standing

 

Increased bone density:

Children with Down Syndrome may be at risk of fractures due to their low muscle tone. Regular
strength training contributes to increased bone density by promoting healthy
bone development.

 

Greater motor skills:

Strength training can target specific muscle groups and body movements that can assist with
better motor skill execution. This can contribute to greater engagement in
age-appropriate play with peers.

 

Increased Confidence:

Strength training can contribute to an increase in functional capacity for children with
Down Syndrome, this can contribute to increased confidence in their abilities
to complete physical tasks

 

 

It is recommended that strength
training is completed under the supervision of an exercise professional such as
an Exercise Physiologist or physiotherapist. If you think your child would
benefit from adding in some strength training into their current therapeutic
routine get in touch with us today.  

Down syndrome and exercise

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