Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds!

Physical fitness is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for anybody, but it’s especially beneficial for our friends with Down syndrome. A regular exercise program helps strengthen your bones and muscles…but it also helps improve brain function, mood, and reduces the risk of certain diseases.

People with Down syndrome often have symptoms of hypotonia, or low muscle tone (not to be confused with muscle weakness), excessive joint laxity and decreased balance. These challenges can affect weight, learning, and lead to falls and/or injury. For these reasons, it is so important to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. The best way to encourage fitness in your loved one with Down syndrome is to model it yourself! Be active together. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or lonely.

So what are some ideas to get you, your family and your loved one with Down syndrome moving and grooving?

  • As the weather heats up, test out your community pool. Sign your son or daughter up for swimming lessons (many organizations and pools offer adaptive swim lessons) or your adult friend up for swim team.
  • Sign up for GiGiFIT! GiGiFIT is an exercise program designed with physical therapists for people with Down syndrome, to help them build strength, power, balance, movement control and more, safely and effectively. Our Cleveland Playhouse now offers GiGiFIT classes infant through adult. Email Erin Alexeff, our Fitness Coordinator, for more information:
  • Join a team through the Special Olympics or Unified Sports – or just start a family pick-up game and challenge friends to your favorite sport (football, soccer, and kickball all only require a ball and a field to play)
  • Ride bikes! For some people with Down syndrome, bike riding can be challenging due to balance issues…but it’s not impossible! There are bike clinics available to help kids and adults learn to ride, or an adult tricycle is a safe and fun option.
  • Walks! Nature walks, coffee walks, neighborhood walks, stroller walks, short walks, long walks – walking is fantastic!

Need motivation to get started, or a goal to work toward? Register as a team (virtual or in person!) for the GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland’s 1st Annual 5k: Dash for Down Syndrome, a GiGiFIT Acceptance Challenge! The 5k race and 1 mile inspirational walk will be held on Saturday, June 5 at Cahoon Memorial Park in Bay Village. Sign up now at


What are some of your family’s favorite ways to be active together? Share with us in the comments!

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