A new study involving 30 babies has found that treadmills can help infants with Down syndrome learn how to walk months earlier than traditional therapies.
Parents of babies with Down syndrome were asked to help their children walk on the treadmills for eight minutes a day, five days a week. They sat on a bench which straddled the machine and held their babies as the treadmill belt encouraged them to take steps.
This exercise helped the babies learn to walk up to four or five months earlier than traditional physical therapy alone, the study found.
More intensive training helped the babies to walk even sooner, the study found.
The intensity of the training for half the babies was increased gradually after the infant could take 10, 20, and 30 steps per minute.
Children with Down syndrome generally don’t learn to walk until 24-28 months, about a year after children without developmental disabilities.Getting them walking sooner can help improve their social skills, motor skills, perception and spatial cognition, said study author Dale Ulrich of the University of Michigan’s Division of Kinesiology.
“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.”