Seventy percent of blind and visually impaired youth in the U.S. are out of shape, according to the United States Association of Blind Athletes. For the third year in a row, the organization plans to do something about it.
According to USABA, most blind and visually impaired youth engage in very little physical activity which increasingly becomes harder to reverse. It cites the lack of challenging physical educational classes offered and a lack of interest in exercise as big reasons. A lot of kids do not join their sighted peers in neighborhoods or playgrounds, which leads to a greater chance they become overweight.
“A lot of kids are not going outside and having fun,” said Katie Keating, spokeswoman for USABA. “It becomes a habit to be inactive.”
Held February through November, the National Fitness Challenge will encourage blind and visually impaired youth to get in shape by offering prizes, financial assistance and providing technology that will increase physical activity levels. Thirty-nine organizations that cater to the blind and visually impaired communities around the country will partner with USABA with the goal of increasing the physical activity level to meet the recommended amount by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The past two National Fitness Challenges have been successful; USABA claims to have reduced the body mass index for 70 percent of the 1200 participants.
This year’s fitness challenge will take advantage of a $22,000grant from the WellPoint Foundation by purchasing a Nike+ FuelBand for each of the 800 participants. The band will make it possible for a participant to keep track of their activity level, calories burned and the number of steps they are taking. Social media will also play a role, as each group will have a Facebook page, helping them encourage each other.
Every month, prizes for completing different goals will be handed out to groups or people who meet them. This is a way to insure that the challenge continues and remains important.
Although the obstacles that blind and visually impaired people, not just youth, have to go through in order to live a healthy life style are immense, programs such as this are playing a big role in making them easier to overcome.
The long duration of the challenge is to help participants form healthier habits, as it takes months to establish a new habit. USABA hopes that eating right and working out regularly will continue after the challenge ends.
“We realize that not everyone participating will remain committed after the challenge,” Keating said. “The goal is to encourage new habits so that a healthier lifestyle isn’t far out of reach.”