In the CVI STARS program, elementary, middle and high school students are engaged by learning the skills and self-confidence to live with vision loss. Comprehensive in nature – STARS stands for Social, Therapeutic, Academic and Recreational Services – the program offers year-round classes. One key component of the CVI STARS program is recreational and physical activities.
Children with visual impairments need to have access to fitness activities just like their sighted peers. Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. It is with that in mind that STARS participated in the USABA/WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge.
According to the United States Association of Blind Athletes approximately 70% of the nearly 56,000 children and youth who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum because of the many barriers and misconceptions about their abilities.
For the past two years, the STARS program participants have been excited about participating in USABA’s National Fitness Challenge. USABA has partnered with over 20 local agencies that work with visually impaired children to encourage and support physical fitness and an overall healthy lifestyle.
The challenge kicked off in November 2012 and ends this week. About 25 STARS kids, ages ranging from 6-18 years old participated. The children met once a week during the after school program with Kristi Logue, Health Fitness Specialist. In order to keep track of each participant’s success,
STARS submitted baseline data and monthly updates that were used to create achievable fitness and weight loss goals for the children to help them decrease their body mass index. They were encouraged to take activities that they do during STARS and incorporate them as part of their life activities at home. The children took on the challenge and did jumping jacks, sit ups and pushups. Some even got creative with skipping and dancing around the house. As a result of the challenge, they learned a lot more about physical activities they could do at home. It also built their self-esteem and self-confidence to take on more challenges in the future.
The nutrition classes were taught twice a week and include how to make smoothies at home, healthy food choices and other nutritious recipes. The group fitness classes included yoga, self-defense, cardio and weight training.
The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) partners with the WellPoint Foundation to conduct the fitness challenge. "We are extremely pleased and excited to partner with the WellPoint Foundation to host a second year of the National Fitness Challenge. With the renewal of this grant we will be able to reach more teens with the ultimate goal of helping each participating teen become more active and fit by using fun and challenging physical activities,” said Mark Lucas, executive director of the United States Association of Blind Athletes. In order to keep track of each participants success, every agency submits baseline data and monthly updates that are used to create achievable fitness and weight loss goals for the teens to help them decrease their body mass index.
“The WellPoint Foundation helps us continue meeting the company’s commitment to helping children and adults live active lives and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity,” said Bill Smith, president and general manager of WellPoint’s Disability and Life business. “We believe no one should be denied the right to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits associated with exercise; therefore, we are very proud to once again partner with the USABA to ensure that vision impairments do not limit the recreational opportunities afforded to teenagers across the country.”
For more information about the fitness challenge visit the United States Association of Blind Athletes.