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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Strength Training in Adults with Down Syndrome

August 2018 | Maura Fitzpatrick-Kissick, DO - Family Medicine Resident, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital

Before starting an exercise program, we recommend discussing it with your health care provider.

Strength is one part of fitness that helps keep you healthy and strong. Strength can help improve activities in everyday life. Research studies have shown that incorporating strength-training exercises can increase endurance and decrease systemic inflammatory markers (that can lead to obesity and increase risk of diabetes and heart disease). Another study showed strength training decreased the chance for developing hip abnormalities and arthritis. The most applicable finding is the improvement in activities of daily life and the decrease in overall chance of injury. People with Down syndrome genetically have 40-50% less strength so it is important to incorporate strength training in an effective and safe manner.

Strength workouts for the entire body help increase overall muscle mass and endurance. The main goal is to strengthen large muscle groups. These can be broken up into upper body, lower body, and core. Some movements will target multiple areas! A sample training program includes 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions at a weight that allows the exercises to be completed without stopping or tiring out from being too heavy. Take a one-minute rest between repetition sets and exercises. Strength training can be done through body weight exercises, dumbbells, barbells, machines, medicine balls, or exercise bands. With this type of versatility, exercises can be completed anywhere – it doesn’t need to be at a gym or fitness facility! Note that it is important to start with a warm up that includes some light bodyweight exercises and 5 to 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking, biking, using an elliptical, etc. It is also important to do a cool down that includes light stretching.

The Special Olympics website has at-home introductory exercises for strength and other areas of fitness. They can be found at


Arent, S.M., Karczewski, M., & Greenwood, J.C. Improving active range of motion of athletes with Down syndrome through strength training [PDF document]. Retrieved from Rutgers University Website:

Kronemer, C. (2018, June 4). Strength training for Down syndrome. National Federation of Professional Trainers. Retrieved from

Rosety-Rodriguez, M., Camacho, A., Rosety, I., Fornieles, G., Rosety, M.A., Diaz, A.J., Rosety, M., & Ordonez, F.J. (2013). Resistance circuit training reduced inflammatory cytokines in a cohort of male adults with Down syndrome. Medical Science Monitor, 19, 949-953.

Shields, N., Taylor, N.F., & Dodd, K.J. (2008). Effects of a community-based progressive resistance training program on muscle performance and physical function in adults with Down syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 89(7), 1215-1220.

Special Olympics. (n.d.). About our fitness resources. Retrieved from

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.