Adaptive Physical Education Equipment & Down's Syndrome

Written by janice messali
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Adaptive Physical Education Equipment & Down's Syndrome
Adaptations can make fitness fun for individuals with Down's syndrome. (Image by, courtesy of Rachel Hofton)

Physical disabilities caused by Down syndrome may prevent individuals from participating in typical physical education, but adapted programs and equipment can help those afflicted enjoy a physically active life.

Cardiovascular Capacity

Down syndrome can cause underdeveloped respiratory and cardiovascular systems, as well as poor muscle strength. Exercise bikes specially made to measure power, called ergometers, are used for training, while measuring results. Most are used with the legs, but some are designed for arm strengthening.


Using a split belt treadmill can improve mobility.

Body Awareness

Core muscles are strengthened while body awareness is increased during therapeutic horseback riding. Large oval handles are attached to the reins for individuals with poor grip. Body harnesses are used for safety.


Balance can be improved through gymnastics. Adaptations, such as wide balance bars and thick floor mats, make gymnastics safe for individuals with Down syndrome.

Calorie Burning

Individuals with Down syndrome are prone to weight problems. Team sports can be accessible with simple adaptations. Hockey sticks can be secured to the arm with a specially designed strap for individuals with poor grip or poor arm or shoulder strength. Softball can be adapted with light, large bats and Velcro balls and mitts.


Some individuals with Down syndrome have an abnormality of the spinal column, called atlantoaxial instability. Individuals with this condition must take special precautions when exercising.

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