Health in a Time of Pandemic and Protest

A blind man runs a road race; he is using a long white cane.

Health in a Time of Pandemic and Protest

The last few months have been among the toughest our nation has faced—a pandemic that basically necessitated a nationwide shutdown and now widespread demonstrations against racism. Some of us are calling on our friends and neighbors to get out and vote, others are protesting in whatever way we know how, and still others are staying safer at home in respect for a virus that seems to prey on vulnerable populations. Our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing have been placed squarely outside of our comfort zone and we've been pushed to develop a new normal that is nurturing to ourselves and those around us. Regardless of what this new normal looks like, it is important that our health take center stage.

People gather for a cardio drumming class led by Jessica Beecham at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind.Exercise is key in keeping our bodies functioning optimally, preventing/reducing our risk for disease, reducing obesity, and improving our mental/emotional wellbeing. As blind people we are twice as likely to be obese as our sighted peers which increases our likelihood of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, certain types of site-specific cancer, sleep apnea, austioarthritis, depression, and more.

Adults need thirty minutes per day, five or more days each week, of moderate physical activity. This means that we need to get our heart rate up and keep it up for at least ten minutes at a time. We can achieve this through cardio activities like walking/jogging, swimming, biking, yard work, rowing, elliptical, stair climbing, and more.

BlindAlive, Aaptiv, or Walk At Home are a few resources to use while staying safer at home. When we can once again venture out into the community, check out United In Stride, Dare2Tri, Achilles International, Ski for Light, and United States Association of Blind Athletes as just a few great resources for getting your heart pumping.

Our cardiovascular health is important but we also have to stay physically strong and flexible. We should incorporate at least two days per week of strength training and one day per week of flexibility training into our exercise regiments. The “7 Minute Workout” app and Alexa skill, ReVision Training by Tyler Marron, the total fit pack (reach out to Maureen Nietfeld for more information), and 50 Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do with No Equipment are great at-home resources.

When you can venture out into the community, consider trying out a free personal training session at your local gym to learn how to use some of the strength building machines and equipment. You might also consider checking out sports like Olympic Poser Lifting, CrossFit, or other strength and conditioning community classes. These are great ways to build community and grow stronger together.  In terms of flexibility, BlindAlive offers a few different yoga options, a full body stretch, and Pilates, and there are several great yoga YouTube and iPhone applications.

In addition to exercise, meditation and mindfulness can also improve our mental/emotional wellbeing. HeadSpace and Calm are great applications for mindfulness and meditation exercises. Mindful.org is also a great website to use as you begin to delve into meditation and mindfulness.

The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado has held Workout Wednesday and a variety of mindfulness and meditation sessions during the pandemic, and each of our workshops are available on the NFBCO YouTube channel. You should also like the NFB Sports and Recreation Facebook group. In addition to our exciting division meeting at national convention, we will be posting lots of workouts, resources, and challenges that you can access and participate in at any time.

If you have more questions about resources or ways that you can begin making health and wellness a part of your life, feel free to reach out to Jessica Beecham, president of the National Sports and Recreation Division, at jbbeecham@gmail.com.

—Jessica Beecham