Research suggests children with Down syndrome have a lowered Basal Metabolic Rate, which is the rate a person burns calories for fuel when completely at rest – or sleeping. This means that children with Down syndrome use less energy when they are resting or sleeping.
Let’s look at an example. If you child is with a “normal” peer and eats the same amount of food and does the same activities, he will burn up to 15% fewer calories than his buddy. This means that his body has calories left over. Even 50 calories extra a day, a simple apple, will add up to 5 pounds a year. Take that over 5 years and you have an extra 25 pounds.
There are three ways to adapt for this difference in metabolism:
o Increase activity
o Limit calories
o Increase activity and limit calories.
Beginning with a focus on physical activity has many more positives. A person can choose from a variety of aerobic activities that are enjoyable. Additionally, regular aerobic activity has many health benefits: increased muscle tone, decreased resting heart rate, decreased blood pressure, a sense of well-being , better sleep, and an increase in metabolism.
Ideas for adding aerobic activity:
o Park farther away from where you are going
o Take the stairs instead of the elevator. My son and I are often seen taking the stairs up and the elevator down — many times.
o Walk or bike to activities that are in your community.
o When you go to the park, play “tag” for 10 minutes with the kids.
Don’t catch them, just chase them around. Parents think of swinging and climbing the play structure as being active. It’s not aerobic activity, except when running between structures.
It is important that the person with Down syndrome makes the choice of activity and is involved in setting the goals. The important part is to keep moving and have fun!