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The Importance of Taking Regular Exercise

By Harriet Smith

With the start of a new year, you may be thinking about how to increase the amount of exercise you take. When you're visually impaired it can be more difficult to stay active, but it is by no means impossible. These days there are a wide variety of ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. One form of exercise I particularly enjoy is attending my local gym twice a week. I love going there as it gives me the opportunity to do activities I wouldn't be able to do so easily at home. My favourite pieces of equipment I go on are the cross trainer and running machine because these give me the feeling of freedom of walking by myself without holding on to someone else. I also do weights to strengthen my arm muscles. I swim regularly too and aim to do 50 lengths each session. When in the pool I prefer to follow the side as an indication that I'm swimming in a straight line. If anyone is interested in becoming a member of their local gym, it would be worth enquiring about whether a package or discount is available for bringing a carer or personal assistant along with you. Also, some staff may have undertaken disability awareness training and might be able to guide you themselves, so discuss all the options.


If the gym isn't for you, BucksVision run walking groups which you could join. Walking is a great way to meet new people and is just as beneficial for your mental health. If you've recently been diagnosed with sight loss and don't have the confidence to become part of a group yet, BucksVision offer a befriending service where a volunteer can visit you at home and walk in your own surroundings with you. A brisk, ten-minute walk is excellent for increasing your heart rate and is a good way to get out of the house if you live alone.

If you'd like to give cycling a try, BucksVision hold regular tandem groups in Milton Keynes. Tandem riding is done in pairs with a sighted person riding on the front and a visually impaired person on the back. You could also consider buying a folding exercise bike to cycle in the comfort of your own home. Half an hour of vigorous peddling a day is enough to not only increase your heart rate but also strengthens your arm and leg muscles. You'll find that time goes even quicker if you listen to your favourite music or an interesting podcast whilst peddling.


Yoga is also a brilliant form of exercise which has huge benefits for the mind as well as body. You don't even have to join a class: the basic stretches are easy to learn and can be performed in your own home. However, when you've been doing it for a while and feel confident enough, there are audio described online yoga sessions you can join if you wish. For example, the charity Metro Blind Sport has 30 minute audio described yoga videos that you can follow at your own pace. To find out more, visit their website at


I hope this article has given you lots of inspiration for keeping fit and active during January and beyond. Please share any of your own exercise ideas and tips, we'd love to hear them! Festival season is upon us, and it's even more hotly anticipated this time round due to the absence of many festivals over the past couple of years. I've been lucky enough to attend several different festivals over the years and had a fantastic time, but if you're visually impaired there's a little more advance preparation to do. So, whether you're heading to a festival over the next couple of months or considering doing so, I thought I'd share my top tips on being festival ready.

When you've decided which festival to go to, check out all the options when booking tickets. Most festivals have accessible tickets available to purchase and also offer a free carer/PA ticket at no extra cost to you if you need someone to accompany you. You usually need to provide proof of your disability when applying for this, such as a Registered Blind card. The accessible ticket gives you access to the disabled facilities on the festival site including disabled campsite, Blue Badge parking, disabled toilets and a space on the viewing platform if required. You may still have to pay for a carpark pass even if you have a blue badge when booking your ticket though: every festival is different so check first. I've certainly made good use of the access facilities at the festivals I've been to as it makes life a lot easier so take advantage of it.

If you're a guide dog owner and are bringing your dog to the festival, take the needs of your dog into account as well as your own. Festivals are often noisy environments so bear this in mind and sit or stand further away from the stage to minimise discomfort for your dog as well as yourself. It is also very likely that there will be a lot more food on the floor than usual so keep an eye out if your dog is a scavenger.

Consider the size of the festival. Large festivals require a lot more walking so take this into account when making your decision. Try and pick a small or medium-sized one such as Cornbury or Towersey as these are relatively easy to get around and there isn't too far to walk between the stages.

If you're not a guide dog owner, bring your cane to the festival. It can be very useful in crowds and symbolises to the other festival-goers that you're visually impaired.

When it comes to festival food, it can be quite expensive so either treat yourself and buy your own or take some snacks and similar goodies with you.

There's a lot more to discover at festivals than the music! If you're in need of a break from the hustle and bustle for a while, take yourself off into a quieter area and immerse yourself in arts and crafts activities, health and wellbeing sessions such as yoga and relaxing massages or get your creative juices flowing with music-making or songwriting workshops.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself and have a wonderful weekend.

I hope these tips have set you in good stead and geared you up for your forthcoming festival experiences. Feel free to share any fab festival tips of your own!