Why You Should Participate in Sports and Exercise If Visually Impaired

Why You Should Participate in Sports and Exercise If Visually Impaired

Sport and exercise are filled with so many benefits for everyone – no matter who you are.

Regular physical activity is not only significant for your physical health, but is one of the most positive things you can do for your mental well-being.

A common misconception is that people who have difficulty with their vision cannot fully participate in physical activity or sport… and this could not be further from the truth!

As we see society progress in so many ways, more opportunities have been created for those with a visual impairment to participate in sports, exercise, and physical activity.

Why should you participate in physical activity or sport?

Sport and physical activity have a major impact on visually impaired people – and it’s not just the health benefits.

Most people who struggle with their vision are reluctant to participate in sport, exercise, and physical activity. For whatever reason, this can come down to doubt or a negative mindset that is a result of not actually knowing how to or what activities are out there.

Sport and physical activity improve interpersonal relationships, self-esteem, motivation, and discipline. The power of sport effectively has contributed to a lot to people’s sense of inclusion and quality of life.

Many professionals are trying to eliminate the stigma around inclusion and activity for visually impaired people. As we begin to see more openness and access to activities, people are taking a step toward participating more in exercise and sport programs.

Advice from an expert:

Exercise Right spoke with Accredited Exercise Scientist and owner of Foresight Fitness, Mitchell Finn.

Mitch has worked with numerous sporting organisations while facing his own vision impairment challenges. These impairments haven’t stopped him pursuing his own health and fitness goals.

Mitch discusses the reasons why more people with a vision impairment should consider participating in sports and physical activity.

Why should someone participate in sport/exercise if they have difficulty with their vision?

One of the main ways we learn how to move from a young age is to learn by watching others. For visually impaired children and adolescents, this can often mean a significant delay or a complete lack of movement literacy and coordination once they hit adulthood.

This creates an increased risk of acute injury and decreases the chance that this already vulnerable population will have the confidence to take up exercise later in life.

For those with a visual impairment, the gym provides a safe space to exercise in a more structured environment than if the client was to get straight into disability sports. Working to achieve goals through navigating barriers in the gym allows those with a disability to improve their self-efficacy and better understand their relationship with their disability.

With most able-bodied sports having a large visual reactionary component, the gym allows for most people with a visual impairment to complete similar sessions and smoothly integrate with their able-bodied counterparts and engage with another community in ways they wouldn’t have previously.

How do you create a positive mindset towards exercise for someone who is hesitant?
    • Own it – the reasons that you adapt your training adds to your story, not detracts from it.
    • Stay consistent – by the nature of your disability, you’re going to have more setbacks and breakthroughs than the average trainee.
    • Find a great coach – good coaches make adaptations to the program while still making you feel like an equal part of a group session or broader training program.

Mitch’s top tips to get started:

1. Consult an accredited exercise professional

2. Communicate what you need from the coach

3. Think about what you enjoy

4. Training is better as part of a community

5. Try to identify challenges ahead of time and plan for them

The Takeaway:

Exercise and sport are an important influence in the lives of anyone.

It can serve as a tool for personal development that enables the respect, self-esteem, opportunities, and inclusiveness for most who participate in some function of physical activity. It is proven to increase the quality of life for both physical and mental experiences and we encourage you to involve yourself or ask a professional for the best advice!

Speak with a professional

Everyone has individual traits and abilities and if you’re new to exercise and sport it can be tough to know where to start safely.

Accredited Exercise Physiologists are university-qualified exercise professionals who exercise for those living with long-term injuries, disability, chronic disease, or mental health conditions.

To find an accredited exercise professional near you, click here.

The Nike Run Club gives you the guidance, inspiration and innovation you need to become a better athlete. Join Nike Run Club to reach your goals and have fun along the way. Download to get started.

Written by Exercise Right. We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series. The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.

Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.

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