Dr Pieter Boer, a lecturer at CPUT and his team conducted research on the importance of exercise for individuals with Down syndrome (DS) and used some of the residents at Sunfield Home Wellington in his research.

The importance of exercise for individuals with Down syndrome (DS) has been well documented. The use of aquatic exercises may be an attractive alternative to land-based exercises for individuals with musculoskeletal conditions such as low muscle tone and excess adiposity as found in adults with DS. As a result, the purpose of the current study was to study the effect of an aquatic training intervention on the functional fitness for adults with DS.

Participants were recruited from two intellectually disabled care centres in the Western Cape of South Africa. Twenty-three adults with DS (13 men and 10 women) (31.4 ± 7.4 years) were allocated to an aquatic training group or a control group.

  • The exercise group performed 35 min of aquatic training, three times a week for 6 weeks, with increase duration of 45 min after 3 weeks.
  • Outcome measures assessed were aerobic capacity, muscular strength, functional ability and balance.
  • The aerobic capacity and functional ability of the participants in the aquatic group improved significantly than in the control group with strong to medium effect sizes. Two out of the three strength parameters also improved significantly than in the control group.

The functional fitness of adults with DS improved with an aquatic intervention but was insufficient to improve balance and upper body strength. The improvement of various parameters associated with functional fitness is however important in this population who age prematurely, suffer from the early onset of age-related conditions, are vulnerable to falls and susceptible to chronic conditions.

If you would like to read the full study you can download it here.