Research projects

Current research projects

Central and peripheral regulation of blood flow in response to exercise in individuals with Down syndrome

Funded by the NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD grant #: 4R00HD092606)

Status: Recruiting
We have started recruiting for our Exercise and Down Syndrome Research Study. In our study last year, the online exercise program with Dr. Sarah Mann of Mann Method PT and Fitness was a big success. Not only did our 20 participants with Down syndrome attend 93% of the workouts 3 times a week for 12 weeks, they also significantly improved their strength, balance, endurance and gait! Participants and their families said the following about our exercise program:

– “Living in a remote location, the online program is so convenient and I don’t think being remote is taking anything away from the personal attention and feedback that my son receives from Coach Sarah.”

– “I’ve seen tremendous growth in my son’s ability to engage people he has just met because of what Coach Sarah does”

– “We think the exercise program is GREAT! Our son really knows and enjoys the routine, and his parents have been practicing having him be more independent and needing less prompting.”

– “My daughter has lost weight, and her clothes are fitting beautifully! Friends who have not seen her are amazed at the toning and self confidence she has since the start of the program.”

– “We absolutely LOVE Coach Sarah’s motivation and energy! The way she brings everyone together in a family friendly and heartfelt way is phenomenal.”

For more information, please email!

This research project focuses on central and peripheral regulation of blood flow in individuals with Down syndrome (DS) as a contributing factor to fatigue and difficulties with exercise. Participants with Down syndrome will participate in a free, supervised, 12-wk exercise program focusing on strength, balance and aerobic capacity, or they will be part of the control group. They will periodically come in the lab for cardiovascular and fitness measurements. For more information, please see the flyer below.

Effects of a Remote Exercise Intervention on Aerobic Endurance, Strength, Gait and Balance in Individuals with Down Syndrome – Pilot study

Status: Completed
This project will investigate the effects of a remote exercise intervention for individuals with Down syndrome. Participants with Down syndrome will participate in a free, supervised, 12-wk remote exercise program focusing on strength, balance and aerobic capacity. They will participate in a remote testing session before and after the intervention with guidance from our trained testing team. Participants will be provided with all the required materials for testing and for the exercise program. Please see the flyer for more details.

Healthy Aging and Intellectual Disabilities study
Funded by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (grant # 57000003 and # 314030302) 
: ongoing

This large epidemiological study in the Netherlands has been following 1050 older adults with intellectual disabilities since 2009, and it is the only study worldwide tracking a wide range of health measures including (cardiovascular) fitness, activity, nutrition, physical and mental health, morbidity and mortality in this particular population. Thessa Hilgenkamp has been involved in this study from the start, and is currently still involved as a co-investigator in the area of physical activity and fitness, including cardiovascular health and autonomic regulation.

Mechanisms of Low Physical Work Capacity, Fatigue, and Reduced Mobility in Multiple Sclerosis
Funded by the Department of Defense (grant # MS170080 / W81XWH-18-1-0466)
Status: recruiting (Chicago area)

Fatigue is a major issue for individuals with MS, and determining whether the regulation of blood flow is a contributor to fatigue is currently unknown. This work will provide insight into exercise’s disease and quality of life-modifying potential in MS. This research project is currently being executed at the Integrative University of Illinois at Chicago, directed by Prof. B. Fernhall as the Principal Investigator (University of Illinois at Chicago), and Thessa Hilgenkamp as a co-investigator.