New Study Finds 2 Ways HIIT Is Beneficial For People With Down Syndrome

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
2 Ways HIIT Exercises Are Beneficial For People With Down Syndrome

Down syndrome (DS) is the most commonly diagnosed chromosomal condition in the United States. According to a study published in American College of Sports Medicine Journal, 70% of people with DS are at risk of obesity, which can lead to other health consequences. However, the same study found people with Down syndrome may benefit from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs.

Researchers from the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University found two specific reasons HIIT might be beneficial for people with DS: 

1. It's short and sweet. 

Not only are HIIT programs effective, but they're also efficient. This means they can help people with Down syndrome reach their health goals in less time than aerobic exercise. "The short, high-intensity exercises in HIIT also do not require long periods of sustained effort and can give people with DS better heart health, better control of body weight and better blood sugar and lipid levels," co-author of the study Megan Ware says in a news release.

The exercise format alternates short periods of high-intensity exercise with short recovery periods. According to the study, people with DS tend to have shorter attention spans and may benefit from the brevity of HIIT workouts.

Plus, they may be more inclined to stick with HIIT over alternative fitness programs. "What makes HIIT really special is that it can be fun for people with DS since their motivation to start or continue exercise can be low," Ware says. "HIIT can be structured to include various kinds of movements that keep engagement high during an exercise training session."

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2. It allows for safety and creativity. 

A range of exercises, including aerobic, strength, and agility-based training movements, can be integrated into HIIT programs. This provides a lot of flexibility for where the workouts will take place and what kind of moves will be incorporated.

Since some people with Down syndrome struggle with balance, the researchers recommend doing HIIT in large, open areas of the gym. For those who are able, rowing machines and other cardio equipment could also be helpful. "The bottom line is that exercise professionals can be more creative with exercise programming for people with Down syndrome by incorporating HIIT," Ware says. 

To ensure safety, the researchers recommend modeling the exercises; providing proper equipment, instructions, and supervision; and monitoring heart rate during exercise.

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