Treadmill training helps Down syndrome babies walk months earlier

Oct 30, 2007

Starting Down syndrome infants on treadmill training for just minutes a day can help them walk up to four or five months earlier than with only traditional physical therapy, a new study from the University of Michigan says.

The study also suggests that infants who do high intensity treadmill training may walk even sooner.

Getting infants walking is critical because so many other skills arise from locomotion: social skills, motor skills, advancement of perception and spatial cognition, says professor Dale Ulrich of the University of Michigan Division of Kinesiology and principal investigator on the treadmill training project.

"The key is if we can get them to walk earlier and better then they can explore their environment earlier and when you start to explore, you learn about the world around you," Ulrich said. "Walking is a critical factor in development in every other domain."

Infants with typical development learn to walk independently at about 12 months of age. Babies with Down syndrome typically learn to take independent steps at 24-28 months.

In the study, 30 infants were randomly assigned lower intensity, generalized treadmill training, or high intensity, individualized treadmill training, implemented in the homes by their parents. The training was used as a supplement to physical therapy.

Initially, all parents worked with their infants on the treadmill for eight minutes a day, five days a week. The parent sat on a bench that straddled the treadmill and held the infant as the child took steps on the treadmill, Ulrich said. All of the parents began with low intensity training, but after the infant could take 10, 20, and 30 steps per minute, intensity was gradually increased for half the infants, Ulrich said.

High intensity training included increasing the treadmill belt speed, using longer durations, and adding light weights to the ankles, with intensity tailored to each child.

The results suggest that infants in the higher-intensity, individualized training group increased their stepping more dramatically over the course of training, and attained most of the motor milestones at an earlier mean age. The results also provided support for the results of their earlier treadmill training study reported in 2001.

The treadmills are about $1,200 each, and Ulrich said the hope is that more hospitals and Down syndrome parent organizations will rent the equipment to parents.

Down syndrome occurs in about 1 in 700 births, and is one of the few disabilities that causes significant delays in all developmental domains, the paper said.

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: Studies yield mixed findings on high-dose flu vaccine for elders

Related Stories

Celestial fireworks celebrate Hubble's 25th anniversary

45 minutes ago

The glittering tapestry of young stars flaring to life in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image aptly resembles an exploding shell in a fireworks display. This vibrant image of the star cluster Westerlund ...

Improving accuracy in genome editing

49 minutes ago

Imagine a day when scientists are able to alter the DNA of organisms in the lab in the search for answers to a host of questions. Or imagine a day when doctors treat genetic disorders by administering drugs ...

Ultra-sensitive sensor detects individual electrons

51 minutes ago

A Spanish-led team of European researchers at the University of Cambridge has created an electronic device so accurate that it can detect the charge of a single electron in less than one microsecond. It has ...

Recommended for you

Time to move Lyme Disease Awareness Month to April?

8 hours ago

The month of May brings many things, among them Mother's Day, tulips, and Lyme Disease Awareness campaigns. But according to Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem ...

An explanation of wild birds' role in avian flu outbreak

10 hours ago

Wild birds are believed to be behind the first major widespread outbreak of bird flu in the United States. The H5N2 virus has cost Midwestern turkey and chicken producers almost 13 million birds since early March, including ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.