Last post we went on a bit of a diversion about Marcus’ decision to quit drinking pop. That is one of the steps he chose to take in order to be a healthy adult with Down syndrome. Another decision is to consistently work-out.
Choosing where to work out and who to work out with is an important factor in anyone’s fitness success. Finding a trainer who is knowledgeable as well as making you comfortable isn’t as easy as pointing to the first website or billboard.
And HOLY COW, I don’t know about your neighborhood, but mine is packed with workout options.
I knew I wanted to write about the gym Marcus is a part of as I brainstormed ideas before the blog began. Then the subject came to the forefront when this headline appeared across my networks: Teen with Down syndrome turned away from gym.
The story flashed me back to nearly 23 years ago when I called literally every daycare in the small college town we lived in to find a place for Marcus while I went to school. No one would accept him because he had Down syndrome. Never mind he was the easiest (and cutest, but that’s not the point) baby in the entire city, I’m pretty sure. Everyone was concerned they didn’t have the facilities necessary to care for him.
“You mean like, play pens, high chairs, blankets, toys?” I wanted to say. I don’t think I did. I was too stunned and moving well into panic when I was finally directed to the one over worked and sympathetic woman in town who would watch him for the hours I was in school. She cared for a few other “High risk” children, including her own special needs son.
Anyway, it’s a bunch of crap that a person with Down syndrome is turned away based on ignorant people assuming “special requirements” when there may not be any required. Does the gym have workout equipment? Treadmills and the like? It’s probably OK then.
That said, and in all fairness, my next post after this is guested by Brad Dienstbier, the fitness coach and owner of The Bodysmith who will address the issue of finding the right gym if you or someone you love has Down syndrome. And also, in the interest of transparency, you should know these two factors about Marcus and his beginning to train at The Bodysmith.
1) A few years ago, Marcus spent some time participating in therapeutic horse-back riding program. A medical exam including spinal chord x-rays were required for participation. This brought to my attention the increased likelihood in people with Down syndrome Musculoskeletal Disorders. Marcus’ doctor gave him a “clean bill” with the instructions to always wear a helmet. However, this led me to check again with our doctors before he began any new workout plans. You know how every diet and workout system says to “check with your doctor first,” but no one ever does? Well, we did, and got the “go” again to participate in healthy gym activities.*
2) The fitness coach involved is a long-time friend of ours. So, Marcus went into this new program with a familiarity with Brad. And Brad was already knowledgeable about Marcus’ likes and they already have their own “in-jokes” before the physical fitness training even began.
That said, The Bodysmith environment is all positive for Marcus. He is, quite simply, a rockstar from the moment he walks through the door. The other members embrace and encourage him and he returns that enthusiasm with his signature thumbs-up.
At this time he works out with a fitness coach twice a week, sometimes Brad and sometimes another team member. A few posts ago I mentioned that people with Down syndrome often have a lower BMR than those of their peers. Basically meaning Marcus doesn’t burn as many calories. He has to work harder, so to speak, to stay healthy. I am hoping/planning that this summer we can increase his physical activity even more. Part of the problem is, well, me. I’m not what you would call, active.
But I’ve got to get this butt moving for my own health, so this summer we are going to make some goals together.
My mantra “I’ve got so much to do!” is a handy excuse to keep me from exercising. (You know that one, right?) But there are three reasons, for me, that I’ve got to make a change.
2) I do have so much to do! And if I die young, I’ll never get it all done. I’ve decided that taking a little more time right now will buy me years later.
3) I need the brain power.
- Can exercise make you smarter? “Even ten minutes can change your brain,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey. If I can do something to help me work faster, I’ll take it. There are many reasons and thoughts and studies and blah blah blah about how exercise improves your brain, the increase in oxygen alone is good for me, but I’m no scientist.
But enough about me and trying to get healthy, let’s get back to Marcus’ quest to being a healthy adult with Down syndrome. I find this reference to exercise I recently ran across kind of, well let’s say, obvious. “Can Exercise Improve IQ In People With Down Syndrome?” Given the research previously discussed, I’m gonna guess…Yes! People with Down syndrome, like the rest of the human race, can in fact see intellectual improvements with exercise. Whew. I’m glad we got that covered.
Now, as with many blogs in the blogosphere, you may be wondering: what is your point? My point, dear audience who most likely have a person with special needs in their world, find a place you can trust and get some exercise, dammit! If you’re like me, it’s hhhhaaaarrrrdddd. Yeah, I know and to help you with this quest, stay tuned! Next post is going to help you with tips on finding the right coach and gym for you.
Marcus counts on the work-outs as part of his weekly plan. We will continue to integrate more physical activities and healthy rewards into our lives, why? Because we want to extend our lives with each other for as long as we can.
Check out the follow-up Posts: Finding a Fitness Facility that’s Up with Down Syndrome, and tips on the Exercise Plan from Marcus’ Coach
As always, please share your thoughts and questions as well. Let’s talk about it!
 * He will have to have further X-rays if a major surgery were to become necessary as he may have some atlantoaxial instability, but it’s not a huge obvious thing and doesn’t affect his day-to-day activities.