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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Get Up, Get Moving and Have Some Fun!

January 1, 2019 | Leave a Comment

by Kathy Austin, CVA

Kathy and Rowen on the walking path in her neighborhood park

We’ve all been told how important exercise is for our health, again and again. But when we lose vision, movement starts to become more difficult.  Perhaps it is our own fear of hurting ourselves. Maybe it is the people around us who fear for our safety and startle us with “watch outs” or “be carefuls.” Whatever the reason, we become much more cautious. As a result, we are no longer moving as we used to.

When we don’t move, our muscles become weak, balance gets wobbly, anxiety is heightened and O&M skills become compromised. All of this results in a lack of confidence in everything we do.  We start to become more dependent on others to do things for us because it is too much effort to do it ourselves.

So what’s the solution?  Exercise of course!  Easier said than done, right?   But here are some things I have found to be helpful in maintaining my fitness as my vision slowly faded away.


Getting Out and Moving

I used to take really long walks when my vision was good enough to get around without a cane. When that was no longer possible, I applied for a guide dog and continued walking with my guide around my local park and through the neighborhood.  I could really get my heart rate up walking briskly around the asphalt path on the perimeter of our park because there were no curbs or obstacles in our way.

I also worked for a short time with a personal trainer who worked up a routine I could do on my own at home. This, along with a hand-me-down stationery bike and some good tunes, was enough to keep me going for a while.

I really enjoy being outside anytime the weather is good, so exercising in the basement felt a little penned in. A friend of mine who is a runner asked me if I’d like to try running. I did a little track in junior high, but just the thought of long distance running made me breathless. With some encouragement from my friend, though, I gave it a try.

We used a shortened exercise tube as a tether and took off at the high school track. We started really slow and would walk more than run.  But, I was walking/running for about 50 minutes each week.  Slowly, I was building up to more running than walking. Eventually, I built up enough stamina to run two 5Ks.  The effects of running made a significant impact on my overall well-being.  I felt stronger and carried myself higher.


Adapting Exercises

While running isn’t for everyone, there are other ways you can exercise at home or with a friend that can fit into your own level of fitness and goals.


Finding a Walking Buddy

You can use a tether to walk through a park, on a walking trail or just around your neighborhood. Just make sure the surface is clear of obstacles. Your walking buddy will want to know how best to make sure you are both safe.  So, check out VisionAware or United in Strides tutorials for guiding a visually impaired runner which can be adapted for walking.

With a small investment, hire a personal trainer for a session or two to help you develop an exercise routine or two you can do at home. To enhance your workout, purchase some hand weights, an exercise or yoga mat or a stability ball.  A beach towel and canned goods are items you may have at home that will work just as well.  And of course, don’t forget your favorite tunes to keep you going.

Second Sense holds a weekly yoga class and the 1Touch Self-Defense course that can help you improve your balance, strength and spatial awareness.  These classes begin this January and are also offered throughout the year.


Adding the Social Aspect

Exercise is more fun when you’re doing it with others. Many adaptive sports are available through special recreation programs and park districts.  Other programs are specifically adapted for people with vision loss.  Here are some suggestions and links to find more information:

Just remember to start out slowly and build your strength.  I feel confident you will feel better, stronger and happier.

Kathy is the Community Outreach Specialist at Second Sense

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