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Effects of Aerobic Conditioning and Strength Training on a Child with Down Syndrome: A Case Study

Lewis, Cynthia L. PhD, PT; Fragala-Pinkham, Maria A. MS, PT

Research Report

Purpose: To determine the effects of a home exercise program of combined aerobic and strength training on fitness with a 10.5-year-old girl with Down syndrome (DS). Measurements included cardiovascular variables, strength, body composition, flexibility, and skill.

Methods: The subject participated in a home exercise program: 30 to 60 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity exercise five to six days per week for six weeks. The cardiovascular variables monitored were heart rate, respiration rate, and oxygen consumption during a submaximal treadmill stress test. Other measures included 10-repetition maximal strength of selected muscle groups, body mass index, flexibility, Gross Motor Scales of the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, and anaerobic muscle power.

Results: Improvements in submaximal heart and respiration rates, aerobic performance, muscle strength and endurance, gross motor skills, and anaerobic power were observed for this subject. Body weight and flexibility were unchanged.

Conclusions: For this subject, a combined aerobic and strength-training program resulted in improved cardiopulmonary functions not observed in previous studies of subjects with DS.

The authors observed improved cardiopulmonary functions in a child with Down Syndrome following a combined aerobic conditioning and strength-training program. The authors suggest that combined aerobic and strength training protocols may be necessary to improve cardiovascular function.

Department of Physical Therapy Education (C.L.L.), Elon University, Elon, NC; Research Center for Children with Special Health Care Needs, Franciscan Hospital for Children and Boston University, Health and Disability Research Institute (M.A.F.), Boston, MA

Address correspondence to: Maria A. Fragala-Pinkham, PT, Research Center, Franciscan Hospital for Children, 30 Warren Street, Brighton, MA 02135. Email:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.