Measuring Fitness and Physical Activity in People with Visual Impairment
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- student-faculty collaborative research; physical fitness; blindness; vision impairments; Exercise Science; Sports Sciences
Visual impairment is associated with decreased physical activity levels and an increased risk for morbidity and mortality related to lifestyle conditions (such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes). Valid tools are needed to evaluate current physical activity levels and to identify technologies that may help improve physical activity in a visually impaired population. We conducted an in-depth literature review to evaluate physical activity and fitness in visual impaired populations. This review used the following search engines: MEDLINE, ProQuest, PubMed, and Google Scholar. The search was conducted by a single student investigator under the supervision of the faculty investigator. The search terms used included: Visual impairment/visually impaired, Physical Activity, Health, Children, Adults. Forty-nine articles were identified from the first pass reviewing the abstracts and titles of all hits. Twenty-one relevant articles were selected based on inclusion criteria. Full documents were then downloaded to an electronic storage site and full citations were abstracted to an Excel spreadsheet which included a link to the full text. The data abstracted included documentation of visual impairment, physical activity rates, physical fitness measures, health-related components of physical fitness (see above), gender, age, number of participants, sample size, and quality of life considerations.The preliminary results indicate that individuals with visual impairments participate in regular physical activity significantly less than their sighted counterparts. Similarly, studies examining physical fitness parameters found that visually impaired individuals are less physically fit. On a more encouraging note, visually impaired participants regularly engaged in recreational or experimental physical activity programs were found to have physical fitness levels comparable to their sighted counterparts. The literature review will be submitted to the Journal of Preventing Chronic Disease as part of a student research competition and publication. The results will be presented by the student at Linfield College in May and at the Northwest chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference in 2019.