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How Do Blind People Exercise?

Jump rope and blue towel

How Do Blind People Exercise?

How cool is it that this month’s guest post from BlindAlive allowed us to introduce you to another blogger? Since I like to keep things on the “up and up” Kirsty Major gave me permission to republish her article shared on BlindAlive. The article that follows is an edited version where Kirsty shares some fabulous exercise tips and tools. To see Kirsty’s original article please visit her site at Unseen Beauty. Okay, let’s dive in. ~Steph

“Being unable to see doesn’t mean that you can’t stay fit! This is what I do.” ~Kirsty Major

So How Do Blind People Exercise?

You may have been asked this question, or perhaps you found BlindAlive during your search for an answer. While many people enjoy Eyes-Free Fitness Workouts, blind and visually impaired people have many ways to remain active. We recently met Kirsty Major, owner of Unseen Beauty. and are pleased to share one of her posts with you. ~Mel Scott

Keeping Fit When You Can’t See

Red exercise hand weightsWhen I worked in London, I got daily exercise without even thinking about it. It was a 30 to 40-minute walk to the train station, which I usually power-walked with my guide dog. This wasn’t really to keep fit, but just because we enjoyed it!

Then there was a 40-minute train ride followed by a 10 to 15-minute walk to the office. Anyway, apart from days when it was pouring rain, or snowing, I really enjoyed these walks.

Still, over 2.5 hours of travel every day is a lot. I was always happy when I negotiated a working from home day. Partly because I didn’t have to commute, and partly because I felt I made much faster progress at home than in the noisy open-plan office.

Taking Action

When I decided to set up my business, I still took my dog for a walk, but I didn’t miss the commute. However, as my dog grew older, the walks were usually not as long as the trip to and from the station. I realised at this point I needed to do something more for my fitness.

So I invested in an exercise bike to make sure I got my daily exercise. This was something I could put in my spare room and use it whatever the weather.

Well, buying the bike was the easy bit. I said I’d use it when I had time, which often meant free time never came. Planning to do exercise when you have time is a bad idea!

Closeup image of a barbell

When I moved in with my boyfriend who owns a cross-trainer, I brought my bike with me. In terms of my exercise routine, I decided something needed to change so now I put it in the diary. Like a meeting, I have to attend—Monday to Friday—every day.

It’s ok if the meeting gets put back a couple of hours, but the meeting has to happen! Only then can I click away from the Outlook reminder and know that the job is done! This is important to me, partly because I have a desk-based job without the benefit of walking to work. Also, there are considerations with being blind where you sometimes have to be a bit more proactive if you want to stay fit.

While I’ve heard some positive experiences about blind people going to the gym. I’ve also heard of people struggling with staff who are not particularly helpful, or machines that are not accessible.

I would rather make the initial investment in exercise equipment and have it at home, for my personal use. There is nobody who will change the settings making it harder for me to use. I don’t have to queue which machines are available or take time to travel to and from the gym. Ok and I don’t have to listen to anyone else’s music choices either. I listen to my own music or podcasts to make sure I don’t get bored!

Tools For Tracking Progress

As I can’t use the display on either machine, I generally do 20 minutes on the bike and 45 minutes on the cross-trainer. I use the step counter on my iPhone to measure the distance and I like to use the app from Withings. The Withings app is generally accessible, apart from some buttons that I labeled myself. I don’t use all of the functions, but I can keep track of how far I’ve gone each day, which is what interests me.

For anyone who wants to measure their blood pressure or heart rate, the Withings wireless blood pressure monitor is fully accessible because you use it with the app. Personally, I think this is a better alternative than some of the talking blood pressure monitors. Since you can store your activity, heart rate, and blood pressure measurements in the same place. Whereas some of the so-called accessible talking stand-alone devices say in the instructions that you need sighted assistance for some functions.

I tried a wrist tracker device, but it annoyed me because it didn’t seem to track all of my steps. Also, I could only read my progress score when I synchronised the device with my phone, which was a faff. I’d much rather check the total going up in real-time on the app. However, if you can see enough to read the screen of the device, it might be ok for you. Here’s the link for the Withings Pulse activity tracker.

Mixing Up Exercise Routines

Last Christmas, my mum bought us a set of York Fitness cast iron dumbbells. I like this particular set because you can change the weight of the dumbbells by adding or removing the metal discs. They come with a set of exercises, which my boyfriend showed me last week, and I plan to include using the weights in my fitness routine – ok, when my arms have recovered, that is!

It’s good to do other physical activities as well. I enjoy going for walks, have been on tandem and canoeing holidays and used to ride horses as a child. However, I see these things as additions, whereas I need a plan to make sure I get enough exercise. Being able to do so whenever I need it, without relying on someone else being available. For me, the exercise regimen with the bike and the cross-trainer is the ideal solution.

I have heard about some audio exercise classes specifically for blind people, which means that the exercises are described. This is something that I would be interested in exploring because I can’t follow normal fitness videos or YouTube classes. If I decide to try them out, I’ll report back later here.

I know there are many blind people who are interested in sports and who play team games or take part in local activities. I don’t really do this, because I need my fitness plan to fit in with my schedule, and for me, it’s about keeping fit rather than finding additional social activities.

I think there are a fair number of blind people who struggle because they haven’t yet found good and accessible ways of keeping fit. However, exercise bikes don’t have to be expensive, especially if you’re not looking for features on the electronic display.

When you consider the price of a gym membership, I think they are a good investment. If that is too expensive, finding a friend who can describe exercises and then write them down is also a good workaround.

If I’m away on business and don’t feel like investigating the hotel gym on my own, I often use these exercises from the NHS fitness pages. However, I still think it’s a good idea to get someone to check the first time that what you are doing is in line with the images on the page.

Summary:

Kirsty lives in England and runs a business teaching English to German-speaking adults. You can learn more at her website.

To view the comments associated with this piece and Explore more of Kirsty’s writing, you can visit her blog.

And of course, BlindAlive would love to have you share your comments and impressions with them. You can comment on their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, or subscribe to their informative chat list.

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Mel Scott On Eyes-Free Fitness®

Image is BlindAlive's logo a red/orange circle with the word BlindAlive. The "A" in Alive is a symbol of a person with legs stretched out in an "A" formation as they reach up with outstretched arms.

How To Start Exercising With Eyes-Free Fitness®

Originally published on BlindAlive by Mel Scott. Mel is a regular featured guest and Woman On The Move.

Recently I attended The American Council of the Blind conference. I met so many people, and the same question came up over and over. They would ask, “I don’t exercise, but I know I should. Where should I start, and what should I do?”

This is a common problem in our community, mainly because the choices for well-described programs have been almost non-existent. I have made it my mission over the last two years to create choices for people at all fitness levels. It is crucial that we move our bodies regularly so we feel healthy.

Today I am going to discuss the absolute beginner. You should consult your medical team before you start any exercise program. With that said, the best places to start with the Eyes-Free Fitness® programs are as follows:

Eyes-Free Fitness® Starter Recommendations

  1. The Gentle Workout Set is the first of three options I recommend. The set has four short workouts and you can do them standing or in a chair. There is a section that requires standing next to a chair. These workouts introduce you to basic cardio and strength training moves. You can do a different one every day. A detailed description can be found at our site.
  2. Pilates Chair With Ring is another great place to start with. You use a chair for the entire workout and it works your whole body. It makes use of a Pilates ring, which is a springy ring with foam handles. The ring can be found at sporting goods stores or through this website, and you can learn more about the workout by visiting our site.
  3. Gentle Yoga For Beginners is where you want to start if yoga is your interest, and being on the floor is okay for you. The entire sequence is on the floor, so there are no standing poses. Once you are on the floor, you can stay there until the end. This flow is great for warming joints and talking you through basic breathing and foundation poses. This link will give you all the information you need to get started.

I think these three options are good places to start for those who have never exercised or who need to ease back into activity with Eyes-Free Fitness®. I suggest that you try these and then you can move to the Level One workouts. We will discuss these more in an upcoming post.

We want to support you in every way we can to feel better than you do now. You may contact us through our Facebook page, on Twitter, or on our BlindAlive Community on Facebook.

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Guest Post: Lisa Salinger

Work Worth Doing

Archer aiming his bow and arrowAre you looking for work? Maybe you’re among the 70 percent of blind people who are unemployed. Maybe you work part-time, full-time, or you are retired, but you’d like to do something extra.

Unfortunately, there is a down side to the job I propose, but there are also many benefits. Let’s get the negative out of the way first thing. After that, I hope you’ll keep reading to see the many advantages to be gained. Here’s the sad truth: working at this job has a nice benefits package, but no pay.

“No Pay???” I can hear the outrage from here. “What point is there in having a job if you’re not getting paid?”

Granted, bringing home that paycheck is one of the nicest benefits of having a job, but it’s not the only one. Besides, if you had all the work you could handle right now, you wouldn’t even be considering another job. So let’s look at some of those other perks:

  • A job provides a sense of purpose.
  • Doing your job well and meeting your goals helps you feel good about yourself, and who can’t use more of that?
  • A job allows you to learn new skills or hone those you already have.
  • Finally, a job may be a springboard that launches you to higher and better things.

Jump rope and towelYou might think it a bit far-fetched right now, but I honestly can’t think of any job more worthwhile than working on your health. Maybe you want to start doing more cardio, strength training, stretching, exercising to improve flexibility, healthy cooking, meditating, spending time outdoors, or any number of healthy pursuits.

I’m certainly not suggesting you should set aside the equivalent of a full-time work week. However, if you have the time to spare, consider carving out a generous portion for the purpose of improving your health. You will likely find that, just like any job to which you give priority, you will gain a greater sense of purpose and feel better about yourself, and you will learn new skills or hone those you already have. And once you get started on the path, who knows all the exciting places it may take you!

What do you think? Why not share your comments on Facebook. We’d also appreciate it if you’d take the time to Like our page while you’re there.
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Guest Post: Everyday Fitness

The following article written by my guest contributor, Mel Scott of BlindAlive, was originally published on September 30, 2014. This post spoke to me on a very deep level as I’ve been recently struggling with weight gain due largely to atrocious eating habits and inactivity. Mel makes an excellent point that our health should be our #1 priority. Without good health everything else is moot. So today (I’ve actually been thinking about it for a while now), I’m recommitting myself to getting and staying healthy and will once again begin an exercise regimen, this time I’ll be taking it slow. Mel, thank you for the motivation.

Glass of water with ice cubesMy Dad used to say, “I’m just going to tell you like it is.” Of course, his view was from the reference point of someone born in 1910 but he was always straight forward and honest. He was a kind and generous man even though his words were hard to hear at times.

I am going to step outside my comfort zone and “tell you like it is” in relation to getting strong. I believe 9 times out of 10 that people can choose to get more fit than they are currently. It is simply a matter of saying to yourself, “My health is absolutely, without a doubt, the most important part of my day.” It is impossible to serve others with your whole self if you are functioning at low energy yourself. Over the long term, you are not doing anybody in favors by putting yourself aside.

Here is your excuse-free, equipment-free, eyes-free fitness plan! I am telling you exactly “how it is”.

Start your day with a big glass of water. If you say, “I hate water” or “Drinking water first thing in the morning makes me ill”, then I say, Do it anyway and you will learn to love it. Our bodies are made of more water than anything else so love yourself and love your water.

Breathe. Actually breathing before you drink your water is a good idea. While in bed, stretch and breathe into all your whole body. Locate all your bones and muscles and appreciate them. I like to pump my breath in and out fast to get my engines running.
Plant your feet on the ground and stand strong. Smile whether you feel like it or not because you are alive and moving.

Make good use of time. Here are some ideas.

  • Lunges are for brushing teeth.
  • Squats are for before landing on the toilet. I am not kidding!
  • Massaging neck and jaws are for in the shower.
  • Squats are for picking up laundry baskets, children, cases of water. Smile
  • Tricep dips, dancing around the kitchen, marching in place or jogging, are for waiting for food to warm up or cook.
  • Fidget. Make yourself look like a nutcase while waiting in line anywhere. I do it all the time and nobody has ever ostracized me in any way I could detect. Ha ha.
  • Squeeze your butt. If you sit a lot, use the time to tighten your butt and legs.

Isometric exercise is very effective and it keeps your blood moving. Circle your feet under the table. Go ahead, nobody is looking. Watch your posture. Make sure your shoulders are back and down and your back is straight. I have heard it said, “That sitting is the new smoking.” Make yourself get up and move. Go get your water.

I expect by now you get my drift. The key is noticing where and what your body is doing and correct accordingly or reward yourself for taking one step toward a healthier you. I promise, your family, your work relationships, and the people you serve will be better off when you put yourself first. Moving in little ways all day will go a long way to feeling better about yourself and everyone else.

Now I have been sitting way to long. Annabelle and I are going for a walk.

Check out my first eye-free audio described workout for download now: Buy Eyes-Free Fitness Workouts.

Mel Scott Founder and President
BlindAlive.com