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Kinesiology Professor and Students Design Online Training Program for Adults With Down Syndrome

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, people all over the world suffered from isolation. Their routines were disrupted and they spent most of their time at home. As a result, more people were less physically active than usual and those that often suffered the most were people with developmental disabilities. In Fall 2020, a kinesiology graduate student, Bradley Clark, designed a simple online resistance training program for adults with Down syndrome under the supervision of Daniela Rubin, professor of kinesiology. In Spring 2021, they recruited five participants with Down Syndrome to try it out. (Clark has a sister who has Down Syndrome so the topic was very close to him.)

Rubin and Clark, who graduated with master’s degree in kinesiology in the summer of 2022, saw the need for tailored exercise programming for people with developmental disabilities and the urgency in developing science-based alternatives to in-person programming. Having done other studies of at-home exercise programs for children with developmental disabilities (Prader-Willi syndrome), Rubin recruited a team of graduate students and undergraduate students to help prepare the intervention materials and trained them to run exercise tests (assessments) using Zoom.

With feedback from the study of five adults with Down syndrome, Rubin and Clark designed a 10-week resistance-training (strength training) progressive program tailored for adults with Down syndrome. Participants in the study access a secured website where exercise videos are hosted. Each week there are three videos for the participant to visit. The videos feature exercise leaders (some of whom have Down syndrome). These routines use exercises that can be done in fairly small spaces with common household items.

Multiple students contributed to this project including Kevin Withrow ’21, M.S. kinesiology, Joanne Lam and Amy McKeever, second-year kinesiology students, as well as Vincent Vuong and Alberto Garcia.

The study is up and running. Rubin and her team of students are recruiting participants from across the United States since the participant can access the exercise program from any location with an internet connection. Rubin’s team hopes this type of program can break the barriers of access by providing tailored exercises for people with Down syndrome. This also relieves the burden of obtaining transportation, a common issue for people with disabilities.

Some funding has come from the College of Health and Human Development and summer COVID-19 incentive stipends from the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Jessica Morrison