Treadmills help children with Down Syndrome.




Journal of Pediatrics

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Down Syndrome is caused by an error in cell division in the chromosomes during fetal development. The cells in the human body contain pairs of chromosomes. Half of these chromosomes are inherited from each parent. When the reproductive cells combine at fertilization, the egg that results contains 23 chromosomes. When this egg contains an extra chromosome from chromosome number 21, the result is a condition known as Down Syndrome, the most common cause of mild to moderate retardation.1 As the age of the mother increases, the chances of having a child with Down Syndrome also increases. There are several prenatal tests that can reveal if the child will be born with Down Syndrome which are usually recommended if the mother becomes pregnant over the age of 35.

Children that have Down Syndrome usually have significant hearing loss in at least one ear. Other health problems associated with this disorder are seizures, vision problems, heart disease, and in increased risk of leukemia. These children often have slow developmental skills and take more time learning to sit, respond, and walk than children who are not disabled. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the use of treadmills to help children learn to walk faster and with less difficulty.

A group of 30 families with infants with Down Syndrome were assigned to either an intervention or control group. Infants were enrolled into the study when they were able to sit alone for 30 seconds and upon enrollment, began receiving physical therapy at least every other week. At this point, the intervention group began to practice stepping on a small treadmill 5 times a week, 8 minutes each day with the parents help. Progress was documented every two weeks by comparing the two groups based on the length of time between sitting and standing, walking with help, and walking independently. The results illustrated that the group who used the treadmills learned significantly faster to walk with help and to walk independently than the control group. There was not a drastic difference in time of the child learning to stand between the two groups. The authors concluded that training, support of the parents, and the use of treadmills could help children with Down Syndrome to learn to walk earlier than they would without these supports.2


1. National Institute of Child Health & Development, Nation Institute of Health. Facts about Down Syndrome. Aug 2001.
2. Ulrich D. Treadmill Training of Infants With Down Syndrome: Evidence-Based Developmental Outcomes. Pediatrics. Nov 2001;108(5):84.