90 minutes/week of vigorous physical activity may improve fitness among adolescents with Down syndrome

Rocio Izquierdo-Gomez, PhD
Autonomous University of Madrid

Down syndrome (DS) may influence body fat composition and levels of physical fitness. In addition, persons with DS exhibit higher level of obesity and lower levels of physical fitness compared with people without disabilities.

What did you do in your research?
We examined the association of physical activity with several markers of fatness and physical fitness in 100 adolescents with DS (11 to 21 years-old; 37 female), participating in the UP&DOWN Study. Participants were recruited from special education schools, associations, and foundations for persons with ID in Madrid and Toledo, Spain.
Participants wore an accelerometer to assess physical activity and completed the
ALPHA health-related fitness test battery that assesses fatness and physical fitness. Weight was measured via electronic scale and height using a telescopic height-measuring instrument. Muscular fitness was also measured via handgrip strength and a standing long jump test. These measures were then combined in order to provide a single score for muscular fitness. Motor and cardiorespiratory were each assessed as well.

What did you find out?
We found that: (i) objectively measured physical activity was not associated with fatness in adolescents with DS, (ii) spending more time in vigorous physical activity was related to high levels of physical fitness, and (iii) meeting the physical activity guidelines (≥60 min in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity) may not be enough to improve physical fitness in this age population.

What are the take-home messages?
This study suggests that adolescents with DS should increase their level of physical activity in order to enhance their quality of life. In addition, physical activity recommendations should consider a particular emphasis on the amount of vigorous physical activity when promoting physical activity activities in adolescents with DS. Based on the results of this study, an amount of approximately 90 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity may be adequate to improve all components of fitness and achieve additional health benefits among adolescents with DS.

To learn more about these findings contact Rocio Izquierdo-Gomez and/or visit the Project Website.

Full Journal Article
Izquierdo-Gomez, R., Martinez-Gomez, D., Villagra, A., Fernhall, B., & Veiga, O.L. (2015). Associations of physical activity with fatness and fitness in adolescents with Down syndrome: The UP&DOWN study. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 36, 428-436.