Month: November 2021

Why I Stopped Measuring My Self-Worth and Trying to Prove Myself

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How to keep moving after lower-limb amputation

How to keep moving after lower-limb amputation

More than 8,000 lower-limb amputations are performed each year in Australia. Men are more than twice as likely to undergo a lower-limb amputation compared to women, more than half will be over 60 years old, and half of these will also have type 2 diabetes.

The most common causes for lower-limb amputation include:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • cancer
  • vascular disease
  • trauma/accidents
  • infection
  • birth defects

Some individuals will also undergo amputation following multiple failed surgeries, in the hope of greater functional outcomes.

Depending on the circumstances, an amputation may be performed above-the-knee (transfemoral), below-the-knee (transtibial), partial foot (excluding toes), or at the toes.

THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

Regular exercise has a multitude of powerful health benefits for the general population, and these same principles and physiological benefits apply in the exact same way following an amputation.

One of the primary complaints following a lower-limb amputation is reduced balance, as well as inactivity and difficulty completing everyday tasks. Further, these individuals also tend to experience significant losses in lower limb strength, bilaterally.

However, individualised exercise treatment can help an individual with an amputation in the following ways:

  • improved muscular strength
  • improved walking performance
  • greater quality of life
  • reduced use of pain medications
  • reduced pain severity
  • reduced impact of an amputation on daily life

THINGS TO BE AWARE OF

Many individuals with a lower limb amputation have difficulty engaging in daily and social activities, due to a commonly-shared fear of falling. Following an amputation there are many physical challenges, as well as increased stress. These commonly include musculoskeletal pain, avoidance of physical activity and lower back pain (occurring in over half of single-limb amputees).

For those with a single-limb amputation, individuals often experience movement asymmetry, increased wear and tear on joints, leg length differences, muscle loss and strength loss. Together, this increases the strain on the body to complete everyday activities. Further to this, limb and muscle loss changes movement strategies, reduces movement efficiency and increases the demand on remaining muscles to carry out movements.

The higher the level of amputation, the harder the body has to work to move safely and effectively.

Individuals with amputation experience several key changes to movement including:

  • greater work by the hips, e.g., twisting, shifting and hiking the hips
  • increased work by the calf muscles on the remaining limb
  • greater side-bending and extending through the lower back
  • reduced knee range of motion on the side of the amputation
  • differences in leg length i.e., remaining limb vs. prosthetic leg
  • differences in lower limb weight i.e., remaining limb vs. prosthetic leg

TYPES OF EXERCISE RECOMMENDED

The long-term goal for individuals following amputation is to optimise physical function and independence with daily living activities, e.g., stair climbing, walking and prolonged standing.

The basic principles of exercise recommendations for individuals with an amputation are the same for those of the general population, and aim to improve function and reduce chronic disease:

  • Aerobic exercise: 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days per week, or 20-60 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise 3 days per week.
  • Strength exercise: 2-3 days per week.
  • Neuromotor training: This is also known as functional training and is recommended 2-3 days per week. This includes balance, agility, coordination and body awareness training. This area of training is the most important component for an individual with an amputation.

Individuals with an amputation show the same ability to improve their overall fitness compared to the general population. Research has shown that for amputees, with the goal to return to running, regular and individualised exercise treatment improves hip strength and movement quality enough to allow safe running. However, more importantly, without ongoing training of these skills, these individuals show a loss of skill and commonly return to being prosthetic walkers only.

SPEAK TO THE EXERCISE PROFESSIONALS

Every individual with an amputation is different which means your exercise regimen should take that into account! If you are looking to rehabilitate after surgery, are only just returning to exercise, or need help with specific issues, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist will be your best source for information, guidance, and support to develop an exercise program that is safe, effective and enjoyable.

Click here to find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you.

Expert contributor: Jessica Bitzios, Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Combined Wellness Solutions

Life Lessons from The Game of Golf


I was 20 when I started to learn golf. I remember being obsessed with the game. Playing as often as possible, reading how to books, and taking as many clients on the course as possible.

The best game I ever played was at River Run in Maryland. I finished seven over par, I was 25. At 26 my company at the time, MCI Telecommunications, had a golf outing with our global accounts on Long Island New York, and my foursome won 1st place.

Commitment Before Ego

I struggled to get good at golf, mostly because of ego which is rooted in low self-worth. One of the manifestations of low-self-worth is the inability to ask for help. Low self-worth also has an impact on our leadership development.

I used to think to I was not being good enough to play with the experts. I was more concerned about how I would “look”, than the benefit I would gain from being around experts and learning how to play better from them.

I was afraid to be vulnerable. I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know something, for fear that I would be judged as not good enough.

I think back to so many opportunities for growth that I had, where I let my ego get in the way by needing to look like I had it all together.

I want to help others not make the same mistake and miss out on growth opportunities. I did eventually learn an important lesson from golf about life and leadership.

In the game of golf, the only competition you face is your bad habits.

The greatest of golfers does not analyze how another golfer plays, he/she works on improving his/her own game by developing consistent good habits that generate consistently good results.

The smart golfers, take tips, own that it’s a game requiring constant growth and learning, and they don’t let ego get in the way of improving their game when others offer up constructive criticism.

The same is true in life, isn’t it?

The more open we are to learn, the humbler we remain, the more fulfilled we become as we grow and become better than we were the day before.

Sadly, much like when I was in my 20s and 30s, many people spend a great deal of time figuring out how to look like they are better than others, compete at all costs, and look like they have it all together.

There is a fundamental problem with the fake it till you make it strategy. You are fooling yourself and holding yourself back from growing.

Work on Yourself

By competing with others, you end up within a zero-sum strategy. You go after your slice of the pie, but there is only so much to go around. You end up having to force someone out of the game, and ultimately the same can happen to you.

What is the alternative?

When you focus on your own game, and you stay open to growing, learning and being adaptive, you gain the brilliance and means to create new values.

Being humble and hungry for growth will enable you to add something to the life opportunities pie that is missing… making the pie bigger.

Widening the pie benefits you, and others too. If more people adopted this mindset, we would never experience economic downfalls and more people would experience prosperity.

Much like the game of golf, for us to experience sustainable success in life requires we focus on developing ourselves to be consistent, productive, resilient, and above all people who add value to others.

Focusing on adding values makes you a creator, while focusing on competing and beating others makes you a taker.

When we are in creator mode, anything can be accomplished, when we go into taker mode, we might experience temporary gains in life, but we will ultimately experience chaos. It’s built into the taker operating system.

The economic crash we had in 2008 was a testament of what happens when we consume more than we produce, when we take more than we give. The only way for it to never happen again, is to become beings of creative and giving forces, vs. beings that need stuff to be happy.

The crash came from the need to compete in a zero-sum proposition world. If you are not actively adding value, you are taking from the pie and eventually this causes recessions, and depressions.

The key ingredient to growing as an individual is much like improving your golf game. Focus on yourself. Develop your own qualities. Become consistent, and productive. Improve your own game.

The winner in golf is not the one who beats the other players, the winner is the one who worked on improving his/her own game. The winner is the one who day in and day out outdoes his/her old game the most. Period!

In life, winning means outdoing your old self, your old ways, your old strategy, your old views, and more importantly the way you view yourself.

Let Go of the Need for Validation

Because of our desire to be validated, respected, and… we can focus on looking good, so others think well of us, and lose sight of the real game, growing as a human being.

The real game of life is about evolving to be better, more loving, more giving, more compassionate, more authentic human beings.

When we focus on just improving ourselves, becoming better than we were the day before, there is no other outcome but a winning outcome.

Validation, respect, and love are all verbs; they are actions that need to come from the inside out, not the other way around.

When a great golfer is losing, he/she does not use the excuse that “the wind” caused them to lose, the great golfer admits when they did not develop a strategy to not let the wind dictate their game.

In life the wind is what others think of us. If you go outside on a windy day and try chasing it… you’ll never catch it, and you will find yourself exhausted trying.

When you focus on being better grounded within yourself, you won’t even know the wind is there.

You will have control of the outcome of your own game, and since we’ve already discussed that that game is focused on adding value to the pie by creating values for others, everyone will win along with you.

You might win or lose in a competitive golf game with other players, but if you are focused on outdoing yourself day in and day out, you are winning at the bigger game — the game of life.

Originally published at tulliosiragusa.com.


Tullio Siragusa is a pioneer of disruptive technologies, an emotional intelligence (EQ) thought leader, futurist, speaker, author, and coach. For the past 32 years, Tullio has built world class leadership teams in technology companies and startups. Tullio currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer at Nearsoft (now Encora) where he co-produces and hosts dojo.live a platform that gives voice to emerging technology luminaries. As an advisory board member to the University of California, Riverside, Design Thinking Executive Program, he advises on how to promote a human-centered approach to innovation. He also hosts Rant & Grow, an entertaining and heart-centered reality podcast where each episode explores people’s personal blockages and how to powerfully move forward with careers, relationships, and self-realization by developing healthy habits. As a founding member of Radical Purpose, Tullio is a strong supporter of human-dignity in all aspects of life, including freedom in the workplace.

Image courtesy of Steve Momot.

Yoga and Emotional Intelligence

Yoga and Emotional Intelligence

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Yoga is an ancient practice focused on improving mental and physical well-being. No longer just a form of exercise, it has become a way of life for many people and countless celebrities.

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice with origins in Hinduism. It includes physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It can help individuals develop emotional intelligence.

Balancing the mind and body helps people to be more in tune with their feelings, which can ultimately make them better at recognizing emotions in others.

Yoga helps individuals become more aware of themselves and the world around them by focusing on breath work and body movement. For all these reasons, yoga can help to make someone more emotionally intelligent.

We’ll discuss different ways to improve emotional intelligence in this article. People can continue reading this article if they want to know the answers to the following questions:

  • Does yoga improve emotional intelligence?
  • How does yoga affect emotions?
  • What improves emotional intelligence?

But let’s first start with some of the benefits of Yoga.

Yoga Advantages

Affect Emotions
Yoga is a form of exercise that has been shown to have many benefits. In terms of mood, it can improve self-esteem and reduce anxiety with regular use. Yoga has also been linked to lower levels of depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue.

Improved mood can be supported by its effects on concentration and thinking skills and reductions in the levels of stress hormones.

Increased Flexibility
Unlike other exercises that focus on one muscle group, yoga emphasizes stretching the entire body. This increased flexibility may help with issues such as chronic pain and stiffness.

Yoga also has an effect on balance. The poses are designed to strengthen muscles, which helps with balance and coordination.

Reduce Weight
Yoga has been found to reduce weight in the body and help the heart stay healthy. Yoga’s ability to be a weight-loss tool can help people burn calories and increase muscle tone in their bodies.

The right yoga postures will stimulate the release of endorphins which can make you feel better about yourself.

Improved Respiration & Energy
Yoga is a mind-body exercise that has many benefits for the body. It improves respiration, energy, and vitality by stimulating deep breathing in yoga poses to stretch and strengthen the lungs.

Enhanced Athletic Performance
Yoga has many benefits for the physical body, one of which is improved athletic performance. Yoga builds flexibility and endurance, which can enhance your ability to perform better in sports activities. It also helps decrease irritation of the nerves in the spine, which can help prevent injury.

What Is Emotional Intelligence? How does Yoga Help in Building It Up?

Emotional intelligence is known as is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, others, and groups.

It encompasses the following skills: self-awareness emotional intelligence, emotional awareness; social awareness; emotional management; relationship management; and impulse control.

The EI is linked to leadership development and organizational success. Yoga can contribute significantly to these EI skills by teaching mindfulness.

Strategies To Improve Emotional Intelligence

Respond instead of React
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos of conflict. Responding instead of reacting is a great way to improve your emotional intelligence. This strategy allows people to stay calm and confident and lets them take control of situations that would normally make them upset and frustrated.

For example, if someone is angry with you about something, take a deep breath before responding instead of attacking them back. This will help you calm down and focus on the best way to handle the situation without letting yourself become emotional.

Practice Self-Awareness
Self-awareness emotional intelligence is the ability to understand how people are feeling, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they need to improve.

Practicing self-awareness also helps people to understand their surroundings.

With Yoga, people can help themselves build up self-awareness skills.

Use Assertive Communication Style
One of the keys to improving emotional intelligence is to use an assertive style of communicating while monitoring your own emotions.

Every person has something to offer. However, many folks are quick to overlook their success because they are not sure how to communicate their ideas effectively.

If you would like to be more assertive in your communication, then try the following techniques:

  • Have a positive mindset when you present ideas.
  • Take the time to listen to others’ perspectives before you speak, and make sure they feel heard.

Be Motivated
A lot of people are unaware that emotional intelligence is a key component of success.

One of the most important ways to improve emotional intelligence is to be motivated. This can come in many forms but can be identified by having a reason for coming to work each day.

For instance, if you are motivated by the love you have for your family, then make sure to keep them in your thoughts when coming up with strategies on how to do better at work.

Use Active Listening Skills
Active listening is not just waiting for your turn to speak or trying to fill up the silence with words. It means truly considering what the other person is saying and thinking about what you can do in response.

It is essential to develop the skill of active listening because it’s a way to show our love and respect for others. Active listening skills involve nodding your head, smiling, and asking clarifying questions.

Take Critique Well
Many people are concerned with how they can improve their emotional intelligence. What is often forgotten is the idea that people can become better workers and more open-minded by taking critique.

Critique can help identify weak areas of the self that need to be improved upon. These weaknesses, which are typically pointed out by others, can then be used as a starting point for improvement.

When someone critiques you, it’s likely because they want you to improve.

Empathize With Others
It is important to empathize with others when dealing with them because it will help you understand their perspective and make them feel valued. Also, when you show concern for another person’s feelings, they will be more willing to work with you in the future.

If someone does not like your idea, empathizing with that person will help the situation. One great way to practice empathy is by looking at things from someone else’s perspective.

Be Social
One way to help improve emotional intelligence is to be approachable and sociable.

When we are approachable, people feel more comfortable around us, and they will likely want to spend more time with us. This will help them feel like they matter and make them feel important.

Conclusion
In conclusion, yoga has the power to make people feel in control of their bodies and in their life. Yoga can help relieve stress, but it also allows people to build emotional intelligence, which is valuable for future endeavours.

About the Authors
Mable L. Harris is a Product Manager at the VeePN VPN company. In her free time, Mable writes articles that are aimed at helping people in terms of self-realization in life.

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Want to Help Someone Through Depression? Here Are a Few Things to Try

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Exercising with a visual impairment

Exercising with a visual impairment

Visual impairment is a broad term that refers to the partial or full loss of sight in one or both eyes. Chronic eye conditions vary in their presentation, treatment and severity. Some people are born with a visual impairment, but it can also occur as a result of disease, injury or degeneration linked to ageing. In many cases, the severity of the impairment will progress over time.

It is estimated that over 13 million Australians have one or more chronic (long-term) eye conditions. Almost all types of visual impairment are more common in older people, affecting 93% of people aged 65 and over, compared with only 12% of those aged under 14.

For this chapter, we’re going to be focusing on exercise for people who suffer from severe visual impairment and are classified as legally blind or have low vision.

A person is considered “legally blind” if they cannot see at six metres what someone with normal vision can see at 60 metres, or if their field of vision is less than 20 degrees in diameter. A person is said to have “low vision” when they have permanent vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses and affects their daily functioning. As our population grows, it is estimated that by 2030, 564,000 Australians will be blind or have low vision.

THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

People with visual impairment have a higher prevalence of chronic conditions and lower levels of physical activity. Exercise and physical activity have a wide range of benefits for those who are living with visual impairment. These benefits include:

Proprioception and Coordination

For those who have grown up blind or visually impaired, it can be difficult to know where their bodies should be in space and what optimal movement looks like for different everyday tasks. Exercises such as strength training or yoga can provide the physical literacy needed to help with the movement puzzles of daily life.

Cardiovascular Health and Body Composition

Due to the perceived intimidating nature of the gym and other forms of physical activity, it can be difficult for those with low vision to get moving. This lack of movement can lead to several comorbidities that certainly do not have to go hand in hand with poor vision. Regular physical activity will improve cardiovascular health, energy levels and improve body composition (increase in muscle mass and decrease in body fat).

Confidence and Self-Esteem

Of all the challenges that come with blindness or visual impairment, it is often the inability to keep up with peers at any age that can lead to feeling helpless and isolated. Gaining confidence in one’s ability to move and become stronger then leads to greater feelings of empowerment and a boost in self-esteem. There’s also the opportunity to improve social and emotional health as those with low vision are integrated into group class environments or team sports with increased movement challenges (where capacity allows).

blind

TYPES OF EXERCISE RECOMMENDED

It’s recommended that those with visual impairment aim to meet the Australian Physical Activity guidelines, which includes being active on most days of the week. If you’re new to exercise, it’s important to start slow and gradually increase your activity levels.

In addition, the following types of movement can be beneficial for those with visual impairment:

Strength training is as beneficial for those with low vision and blindness as it is for any other person and should be incorporated at least twice a week. Initially it can be beneficial to start using machines and slowly integrate the use of more complex free weight exercises once the individual is proficient. As visual cues are of little to no use with this population, it’s important to use task-oriented cues and movements.

Both yoga and Pilates provide great opportunities to develop balance and proprioception with bodyweight or low amounts of external load. If the client has previously engaged in very little physical activity, it will complement a well-rounded strength and conditioning program.

Barefoot training provides a great opportunity to develop balance for any visually impaired trainee, particularly for those who rely on the receptors in their feet for sensing uneven terrain. Often those who grow up with a visual impairment will take their shoes off at every opportunity. This helps to balance, navigate obstacles and strengthen feet and ankles.

It’s also important for visually impaired people to be mindful of their training environment, as certain factors can increase the risk of injury. One of the biggest barriers to training can be the sensory chaos of a busy gym environment. Finding a quiet space where it’s easy to communicate clearly, navigate easily, and focus energy on training without distraction is critical to sustained training success. It’s also important to be aware of uneven surfaces and dimly lit spaces.

SPEAK TO THE EXERCISE PROFESSIONALS

An accredited exercise professional, like an Accredited Exercise Scientist or Accredited Exercise Physiologist, can greatly assist someone living with visual impairment to become more active and independent. They will be able to adapt the training program to include exercise modalities that are safe and effective for someone who is blind or living with low vision.

Click here to find an accredited exercise professional near you.

Expert Contributor: Mitchell Finn, Accredited Exercise Scientist at Foresight Fitness

ADHD and physical activity

ADHD and physical activity

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is estimated to affect about 1 in 20 Australians – which is about 1,000,000 people. Onset of ADHD commonly occurs during childhood, and is characterised by inattention, impulsivity, disorganisation, and forgetfulness.

People with ADHD experience a range of symptoms however the core symptoms are:

  • Inattention – inability to focus on something for a sustained period of time unless urgent and important or of significant interest e.g., often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes; often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; often easily distracted; often forgetful in daily activities.
  • Impulsivity-Hyperactivity (Poor Inhibitory Control) – inability to inhibit a thought, action or movement e.g., often talks excessively; often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed; often interrupts or intrudes on others; often feels restless; often fidgets.

The precise cause of ADHD is a complex interaction between genetics and environmental factors that is still being studied. However, ADHD has a significant genetic component with the heritability estimated to be approximately 70-80%. For this reason, it is common to see ADHD running in families.

Unfortunately, adults with ADHD experience higher rates of a number of conditions including mental illness (i.e., depression, anxiety, bipolar), neurological disorders, respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma), cardiovascular and metabolic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, addiction and substance use disorders, sleep problems such as insomnia, hypermobility, poor coordination, and accidental injury.

BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

In children with ADHD, recent reviews have shown that regular exercise can improve attention, impulsivity, executive functions, motor skills, anxiety and mood. We also know from other studies in adults, that exercise and physical activity can play an important part in managing physical and mental health conditions that are common in ADHD.

An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can support you in developing a regular exercise routine that will provide a variety of benefits:

  • improved attention
  • improved inhibition and impulsivity
  • improved executive functions (planning, organisation, reasoning)
  • improved working memory (ability to hold and manipulate information in your mind

Exercise also plays a role in preventing and treating many conditions that are more prevalent in individuals with ADHD by:

  • improving mood and anxiety
  • helping regulate blood sugar and improve body composition to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • improving sleep which can help manage insomnia and other sleep conditions
  • improving motor skills including the treatment of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)

THINGS TO BE AWARE OF

Motor Control and Learning

Learning a new skill can be challenging for anyone, however, adults with ADHD often have greater difficulty learning motor skills due to atypical memory consolidation processes (making improvements permanent).

Research identified some strategies to help motor learning in adults with ADHD. It found that halving the amount of practice from 160 to 80 repetitions in one practice session and practicing a motor skill in the evening compared to in the morning resulted in better memory consolidation and learning.

Practical Tip: Shorter practice sessions and/or evening practice may help improve learning for adults with ADHD.

Sleep and Circadian Rhythm

Adults with ADHD experience high rates of sleep problems including insomnia and a delayed circadian rhythm (our bodies natural 24 hour clock).

Research investigated the effects of Bright Light Therapy on sleep, circadian rhythm (Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome) and mood in adults with ADHD. It found that being exposed to 30 minutes of bright light (10,000 lux) every morning (before 8:00am in one study) for 2-3 weeks improved sleep and ADHD symptoms.

Practical Tip: A 30 minute walk (or some other activity) outside every morning within an hour of waking up may help improve sleep and ADHD symptoms. Research suggests that it is best to do this without wearing sunglasses, however, it’s best to check with your doctor or health professional.

TYPES OF EXERCISE RECOMMENDED

Any physical activity can be considered better than none, however, there are some more specific strategies and recommendations we can provide based on the available research.

Movement Facilitates Cognition

One study measured attention of two groups, one with ADHD and the other without, then had them walk on a treadmill and re-tested them while they were walking, not after. Unsurprisingly, the ADHD group performed significantly worse at baseline. However, while walking at 5km/h on a treadmill, the ADHD group showed improvements in their attention while the non-ADHD group did not. This meant that there was no difference in attention between the ADHD group and the non-ADHD group during walking.

Practical Tip: Moving may help to improve attention. Listen to a lecture while you walk. Don’t tell someone with ADHD to “sit still and pay attention”, as the evidence suggests the opposite may actually be true!

Aerobic Exercise

However, multiple studies have shown that symptoms of inhibition, mood and motivation improve after a single bout of aerobic exercise such as running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike for 30 minutes. This effect lasts for about 1-2 hours.

Practical Tip: Go for a 20-30 minute run or ride at a moderate intensity before listening to a lecture or doing a task that requires better attention or impulse control.

SPEAK TO THE EXERCISE PROFESSIONALS

People with ADHD often require support starting and maintaining an exercise routine due to difficulties with organisation, motivation and attention.

Support from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can be beneficial to implement a safe, effective and enjoyable exercise routine by facilitating changes in habits and behaviours, creating accountability, teaching new motor skills including proper technique, and addressing any other conditions that someone with ADHD may experience.

Click here to find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you.

Expert Contributor: Christopher Ewan Hanbury-Brown, Accredited Exercise Physiologist and PhD Candidate at the University of Sydney: Exercise in adults with ADHD

How to exercise right for Down syndrome

How to exercise right for Down syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that affects an estimated 13,000 Australians. People living with Down syndrome have some degree of intellectual disability and developmental delay. They often need assistance from family and/or support people and different health professionals to experience the best possible health, function and independence.

THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

Down Syndrome Australia note that people living with an intellectual disability (such as those with Down syndrome) have higher rates of physical and mental health conditions than that of the general population. For example, people with Down syndrome are more likely to have heart defects, low thyroid levels, and overweight/obesity. Many of these physical and mental health conditions and risk factors are treatable, and potentially preventable, with the right lifestyle measures.

If you or someone you love has Down syndrome, regular exercise is an important part of leading a healthy life and reducing yours or their risk of developing a chronic health condition.

Importantly, research has shown regular physical activity can improve muscle strength and aerobic capacity in people with Down syndrome and have a positive impact on cardiovascular disease risk factors.

In addition to improving physical fitness, exercise is known to benefit mental health. This is important because at least 50% of children and adults with Down syndrome will experience a major mental health concern – such as anxiety or depression – during their lifetime.

TYPES OF EXERCISE RECOMMENDED

Every person is unique, so an exercise approach that considers each individual’s needs, goals and preferences is best. That said, a combination of exercises to address cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and balance will be of benefit for most people living with Down syndrome.

Aerobic exercise activities involve continuous movement of large muscle groups to raise the heart and breathing rate. When performed regularly, aerobic exercise helps to build cardiorespiratory fitness. Examples include walking, rowing, swimming, boxing, dancing, cycling and aqua fitness.

Adequate muscular strength is necessary to perform everyday activities like climbing stairs, getting on and off chairs, and opening jars. In other words, strength exercises and training is important for independence! Low muscle tone, or “floppy” muscles, are common in people with Down syndrome, making strength training an important part of any exercise routine.

down syndrome

Strength is built through resistance activities that challenge muscles. When performed regularly, resistance training helps muscles grow larger (to a degree) and stronger. Examples include activities performed with resistance bands, dumbbells, body weight, gym equipment, and even household objects such as tins of food.

Research has shown a combination of aerobic and resistance exercises can have beneficial effects for people with Down syndrome, including improvements in memory, exercise capacity and fitness, and, in young people aged 10-19, an increase in lean muscle mass.

Balance problems are also common in people living with Down syndrome – in fact we know that high falls risk can be a problem for anyone living with an intellectual disability. Balance exercises are designed to train balance on the spot (static balance) and while moving around (dynamic balance) should both be incorporated to help.

THINGS TO BE AWARE OF

The effects of Down syndrome mean that care is required when designing exercise programs for people with the condition. People living with Down syndrome typically have a lower aerobic capacity and peak heart rate than those in the general population, so the usual measures of exercise intensity may need to be modified. Low muscle tone and loose joints can also pose a potential for injury with the wrong types of activity.

Other things that may need to be considered in prescribing exercise for people with Down syndrome include heart defects, vision or hearing issues, and a higher risk of osteoporosis and a rare condition that affects the upper spine.

SPEAK TO THE EXERCISE PROFESSIONALS

An ESSA exercise professional will be aware of all these things. Accredited Exercise Physiologists are trained to understand the health effects of conditions such as Down syndrome, and design exercise programs tailored to suit each person’s needs and goals.

They will start your program at an intensity to match your current physical condition and make changes as you progress. They can supervise your exercises to ensure you’re performing them safely and correctly and train your support people to do the same.

Some Accredited Exercise Physiologists have a special interest in supporting people with disability. They will work alongside you, and your support people, to help you achieve optimal health, independence and quality of life.

Click here to find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you.

Expert Contributors: Amanda Semaan and Kara Foscholo, Accredited Exercise Physiologists and Co-Directors of Active Ability