In the fall of 2017, Simon Holzapfel, PhD, ACSM-CEP launched an exercise program at the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA for adults with Down syndrome. Simon, who is a Clinical Assistant Professor at ASU in the Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion, created the program he calls ExDS (Exercise Program for Adults with Down syndrome), after spending many years researching the effects of exercise in people with Down syndrome. The ExDS program provides specialized workouts to nearly two dozen adolescents and adults. Each participant is paired with an undergraduate research student, who helps develop a personalized fitness plan that includes cardio, strength and flexibility exercises.
For many of Simon’s undergraduate students, the ExDS program is the first time they have interacted with a peer who has Down syndrome. By helping people with Down syndrome to improve their health, the program’s buddy system is successful in teaching patience, empathy and creative thinking to the undergraduates as they cultivate new friendships.
After he was approached with the idea about starting an exercise program for people with Down syndrome, Simon got busy applying for grants and research money to purchase exercise equipment. The ExDS program has been beneficial for the those with Down syndrome and the student instructors, alike.