Nicholas Buoncristiani, Whitley Stone, Grant Malone, Kayla Baker. Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY.

BACKGROUND: Daily physical activity plays a vital role in quality of life, general physical preparedness, and decreased risk for disease while physical inactivity is associated with decreased coordination and increased difficulty performing activities of daily living. Although this information is prevalent within the literature, there is a sparsity of research pertaining to special populations, specifically individuals with Down syndrome. The purpose of this study was to determine if physical activity assessed by daily step count (PA) is associated with balance and functional gait performance. METHODS: Six participants, including four males and two females (age = 34 ± 10 years, height = 62.0 ± 2.2 in., body mass = 89.0 ± 21.9 kg), with Down syndrome took part in this within-subject study. During the first session, participants completed the BERG balance assessment and were fitted with a StepWatch accelerometer, the device considered the gold standard for impaired gait. Participants wore the accelerometer for seven days before completing the second session. During the second session, participants returned the monitor for data extraction and completed a functional gait analysis (FGA). The highest and lowest step counts across the seven days were removed and a five-day average was used for analysis. Assumptions for parametric testing were met, so the data were evaluated using Pearson correlations to determine if associations existed between the BERG test and FGA and PA, respectively. RESULTS: There was a significant correlation between both balance (r = 0.990, p = 0.010) and functional gait (r = 0.999, p < 0.001) and PA (3218± 1344 steps). CONCLUSIONS: Performance during the BERG balance test and FGA may directly transfer to day-to-day activity as they assess balance and functional gate; therefore, maintaining PA levels should be an important consideration for individuals with Down syndrome as PA is highly correlated with performance during these functional tests. Future research should examine whether PA influences balance and gait performance or vice versa in a larger sample of individuals with Down syndrome to continue to better understand the needs of this population.

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