Fitness for Individuals who are Visually Impaired, Blind, and Deafblind
By Lauren J. Lieberman Ph.D.
Regular physical activity benefits both physical and psychological health, and reduces risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and stress-related illnesses (U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, 1996). Although many people believe that children are naturally active, children in the United States did not engage in levels of activity sufficient to maintain adequate fitness (U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, 1996), and percentages of overweight children were at an all-time high (Nicklas, Webber, Johnson, Srinivasan, & Berenson, 1995; Sallis & Patrick, 1994). The literature clearly shows that regular physical activity and related lifestyle changes can significantly reduce premature all-cause death and disability, improve the quality of our lives and increase our chances for longevity in the population at large (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1995). It would be presumed to benefit children who are visually impaired blind as well.
Children who are visually impaired, and blind consistently exhibited lower levels of fitness than sighted peers (Blessing, McCrimmon, Stoval, & Williford, 1993; Lieberman & McHugh, 2001; Skaggs & Hopper, 1996; Winnick & Short, 1985; Aslan, Calik, & Kitis, 2012). Furthermore, for children who are blind, activities of daily living demand increased energy; and the need to be fit might be even greater (Buell, 1982). Other research has shown that children with disabilities including visual impairments are often neither fully socialized and not expected to pursue a full range of life options (Stein, 1996). Physical activity levels of children who are visually impaired and blind can be improved, therefore improving comfort and success of movement (Lancioni, Olivia, Bracalente, ten Hoopen, 1996; Lieberman, Butcher and Moak, 2001). Aside from physiological outcomes, adapted physical activity programs for people with visual impairment can also improve psychosocial health (Surraka & Kivela, 2008).