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Reduced exercise capacity in persons with Down syndrome: cause, effect, and management

Authors Mendonca G, Pereira F, Fernhall B

Published 8 December 2010 Volume 2010:6 Pages 601—610


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Goncalo V Mendonca1, Fernando D Pereira1, Bo Fernhall2
1Center of Human Performance (CIPER), Faculty of Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal; 2Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA

Abstract: Persons with Down syndrome (DS) have reduced peak and submaximal exercise capacity. Because ambulation is one predictor of survival among adults with DS, a review of the current knowledge of the causes, effects, and management of reduced exercise capacity in these individuals would be important. Available data suggest that reduced exercise capacity in persons with DS results from an interaction between low peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) and poor exercise economy. Of several possible explanations, chronotropic incompetence has been shown to be the primary cause of low VO2peak in DS. In contrast, poor exercise economy is apparently dependent on disturbed gait kinetics and kinematics resulting from joint laxity and muscle hypotonia. Importantly, there is enough evidence to suggest that such low levels of physical fitness (reduced exercise capacity and muscle strength) limit the ability of adults with DS to perform functional tasks of daily living. Consequently, clinical management of reduced exercise capacity in DS seems important to ensure that these individuals remain productive and healthy throughout their lives. However, few prospective studies have examined the effects of structured exercise training in this population. Existent data suggest that exercise training is beneficial for improving exercise capacity and physiological function in persons with DS. This article reviews the current knowledge of the causes, effects, and management of reduced exercise capacity in DS. This review is limited to the acute and chronic responses to submaximal and peak exercise intensities because data on supramaximal exercise capacity of persons with DS have been shown to be unreliable.

Keywords: Down syndrome, peak exercise capacity, exercise economy, ventilatory threshold, exercise training

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