Review Article

The health benefits of exercise therapy for patients with Down syndrome: A systematic review

Yvonne Paul, Terry J. Ellapen, Marco Barnard, Henriette V. Hammill, Mariette Swanepoel
African Journal of Disability | Vol 8 | a576 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v8i0.576 | © 2019 Yvonne Paul, Terry J. Ellapen, Marco Barnard, Henriette V. Hammill, Mariette Swanepoel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 September 2018 | Published: 23 October 2019

About the author(s)

Yvonne Paul, Department of Sport and Dental Therapy, Faculty of Health Science, Tshwane University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa
Terry J. Ellapen, School of Biokinetics, Recreation and Sport, Physical Activity Sport and Recreation (PhASRec), North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Marco Barnard, School of Biokinetics, Recreation and Sport, Physical Activity Sport and Recreation (PhASRec), North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Henriette V. Hammill, School of Biokinetics, Recreation and Sport, Physical Activity Sport and Recreation (PhASRec), North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Mariette Swanepoel, School of Biokinetics, Recreation and Sport, Physical Activity Sport and Recreation (PhASRec), North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Many patients with Down syndrome (PWDS) have poor cardiometabolic risk profiles, aerobic capacities and weak hypotonic muscles, primarily because of physical inactivity and poor diet.

Objectives: This study discusses the benefits of exercise therapy on body composition, aerobic capacity, muscle strength, proprioception and cardiometabolic profiles of PWDS.

Methods: A literature review using the Crossref metadatabase, following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA), focusing on the period 2007-2018, was undertaken. Each record was judged adopting the modified Downs and Black Appraisal Scale. The literature investigation identified 15 701 records. Records were excluded if they were published before 2007, pertained to the impact of exercise on intellectual disabilities beyond Down syndrome or the impact of medical, pharmaceutical, nutrition and psychological interventions among PWDS and were published in languages besides English. Nineteen articles were synthesised into this commentary.

Results: PWDS have a heightened cardiometabolic risk profile and high oxidative stress associated with elevated insulin resistance, poor insulin sensitivity, atherosclerosis and hypertension. PWDS have low aerobic capacity (VO2max), peak heart rates, muscle strength, agility and balance. Regular physical activity is beneficial to improve their VO2max and muscle strength. Moreover, regular physical activity reduces lipid peroxidation and arterial cell wall damage, the pathogenesis of atheroma is limited.

Conclusion: Exercise therapy compliance seems to have a positive impact on the cardiometabolic risk profile, muscle strength and aerobic work capacity of PWDS. Nonetheless, additional vigorous experimental investigations are necessary to better understand the effect of exercise therapy on the aerobic, strength, proprioception and cardiometabolic risk profile of PWDS.


Keywords

cardiometabolic; Down syndrome; exercise; muscle strength; proprioception; obesity

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