A study by Li, Chen, Meng How, and Zhang (2013) systematically reviewed articles involving the impact of physical exercise interventions on physical fitness for individuals with Down Syndrome. These authors conducted a meta-analysis (aka. gigantic review of as many articles as they could find spanning a large amount of time) and with stringent criteria (PEDro scale), chose 5 studies demonstrating high quality research methodology. Why is the quality of research methodology important? Because we want the results to be accurate and as meaningful as possible. The researchers found that exercise interventions led to moderate to high effects on improving muscular strength and balance in individuals with Down Syndrome.
We were excited to see research “back-up” what we see qualitatively in our program, especially as we purposefully facilitate building the balance and strength in our athletes. We see balance as a key component in everyday life. It keeps us upright when we want to be and helps us transition to sitting or laying down safely (vs. face planting into the ground). We find that balance also plays a key role in body confidence, allowing us to move functionally during everyday demands without even thinking about it. We define strength, another core component we target with our athletes, as the underlying foundation for functional movements like picking up groceries, playing on the play ground, and picking oneself off the floor (when balance gives out). Both balance and strength work together to make everyday tasks easier and safer, and are a couple of the reasons why we prioritize their development in our program.