New study reveals exercise breakthrough for Down Syndrome

Physical and cognitive health in Down Syndrome.


A new study suggests that light, regular exercise can benefit adults with Down syndrome’s physical and mental health. The Mindsets study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is the first to examine how exercise affects people with Down syndrome. 

It found that short walks can help improve attention and information processing in just eight weeks. This discovery is important because many adults with Down syndrome do not get enough exercise. It shows that exercise could be crucial to their overall well-being.

The study involved 83 adults recruited through the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Dr. Dan Gordon and Viviane Merzbach from Anglia Ruskin University led the research. Down syndrome affects about one in every thousand children, causing intellectual disability and delays in motor skills and speech. The study included 40 females and 43 males aged 18 to 48 from 10 countries. They were split into four groups for eight weeks.

Some participants only exercised by walking three times a week for 30 minutes each session. Another group did brain exercises using BrainHQ. A third group did both exercises, and a fourth group did nothing. They all wore Fitbits to track their activity and used a particular app to communicate with the researchers. 

They were tested physically and mentally at the beginning and end of eight weeks. Those who exercised showed improvement in physical fitness, with the walking and combined groups improving by about 11.4% and 9.9% in the distance they could walk in six minutes.”

Dr. Dan Gordon, who is an Associate Professor at Anglia Ruskin University and the principal author of the study, stated:

“Even though walking and exercise might not come naturally to many people with Down syndrome, our study proves that walking can significantly enhance cognitive abilities and decision-making.”

“Though walking seems automatic, it requires much mental processing. Walking triggers brain pathways in individuals with Down syndrome, enhancing cognitive skills like attention and decision-making.”

“These findings are significant for the Down syndrome community since walking is a simple and accessible activity. Better cognitive abilities can improve integration into society and overall quality of life, especially considering that individuals with Down syndrome are now expected to live longer than previous generations.”

The study represents a significant breakthrough in understanding the benefits of exercise, mainly walking, for individuals with Down syndrome. By demonstrating the positive impact of walking on cognitive and executive function, the research offers valuable insights into effective interventions to support the well-being of individuals with Down syndrome.

Journal reference:

  1. Viviane Merzbach, Michael Ferrandino, et al., Impact of Prescribed Exercise on the Physical and Cognitive Health of Adults with Down Syndrome: The MinDSets Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph20237121.