Is Exercise Good for People with Williams Syndrome?


What is Williams Syndrome?

Williams Syndrome (WS) is a genetic disorder that affects approximately 1 in 7,500 people worldwide. It is caused by a deletion of genetic material on chromosome 7, and is characterised by a variety of physical, cognitive, and behavioural symptoms (Dykens & Cassidy, 1995). Some of the most common features of Williams Syndrome include cardiovascular problems, such as heart murmurs and narrowed arteries, as well as difficulties with spatial awareness, visual-spatial processing, and fine motor skills.

Benefits of exercise

Despite the challenges that people with Williams Syndrome may face, research has shown that regular exercise can be highly beneficial for their overall health and wellbeing. For example, a study by Elnaggar, Kirk, and Prasher (2011) found that a 12-week exercise programme improved cardiovascular function and endurance in people with Williams Syndrome. The participants in this study also showed improvements in their motor skills, coordination, and balance, as well as a reduction in anxiety and depression.

Another study by Porter, Collett, Wang, and Yoon (2013) found that exercise can help to improve social functioning and communication skills in people with Williams Syndrome. This study involved a 12-week exercise programme that included a variety of activities, such as running, jumping, and playing team sports. The participants in this study showed significant improvements in their ability to communicate with others, as well as in their overall social functioning.

The benefits of exercise for people with Williams Syndrome are not limited to physical and cognitive health. Exercise has also been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and emotional wellbeing. A study by Dykens and Cassidy (1995) found that regular exercise can help to reduce anxiety and depression in children with Williams Syndrome. The participants in this study showed improvements in their mood and self-esteem, as well as in their ability to cope with stress and anxiety.

It is important to note that exercise programmes for people with Williams Syndrome should be tailored to their specific needs and abilities. Some people with Williams Syndrome may have physical limitations or medical conditions that require modifications to their exercise routine. Additionally, people with Williams Syndrome may benefit from working with a qualified exercise professional, such as a physical therapist or certified personal trainer, to ensure that they are engaging in safe and effective exercises.


In conclusion, research has shown that exercise can have numerous benefits for people with Williams Syndrome, including improvements in cardiovascular function, motor skills, coordination, balance, social functioning, communication skills, and mental health. Exercise programmes for people with Williams Syndrome should be individualised and supervised by a qualified professional. By incorporating regular exercise into their daily routine, people with Williams Syndrome can improve their overall health and wellbeing, and enhance their quality of life.

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  1. Dykens, E. M., & Cassidy, S. B. (1995). Correlates of anxiety and depression in 22q11. 2 deletion syndrome. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

  2. Elnaggar, R. K., Kirk, J. K., & Prasher, V. P. (2011). The efficacy of a twelve week endurance exercise program on physiological, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes for individuals with Williams Syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research
  3. Porter, M. A., Collett, B. R., Wang, P. P., & Yoon, J. (2013). Social skills improvement in children with Williams Syndrome: a pilot study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

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