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Fitness Wearables and Youths with Visual Impairments: Implications for Practice and Application

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Physical activity has been shown to have many health benefits for children, such as favorable body composition; prevention of weight gain; improved bone health; reduced risk of type II diabetes; improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness; and decreased stress, anxiety, and depression (Starkoff, Eneli, Bonny, Hoffman, & Devor, 2014; U. S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2008). Participation in physical activity may lead to achievement of the four central goals of Healthy People 2020, a government organization that offers research-based national health goals every decade (USDHHS, 2010b). These goals are: improved longevity; improved morbidity and mortality; achievement of health equity; and promotion of quality of life, healthy development, and healthy behaviors across all life stages. However, not all Americans have equal access to physical activity and, therefore, may not reap all of the benefits related to health equity, the opportunity to achieve their maximum level of health (Braveman, 2014). Individuals with disabilities are one such subgroup and are the focus of the disability and health topic of Healthy People 2020; objectives for this population incorporate inclusion in public health activities, reception of interventions, interaction with their environments without confronting barriers, and participation in activities of daily living (USDHHS, 2010a). Physical activity interventions directed toward individuals with disabilities could address both these objectives and the four goals of Healthy People 2020.

Individuals with visual impairments are an often-overlooked population in need of physical activity interventions in order to achieve their associated health benefits. For those under the age of 18, 557,236 individuals recently reported having vision difficulties (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013). Previous studies and National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey data demonstrate that those with visual impairments are at a higher risk for health-related illnesses and a compromised quality of life attributed to inactivity and low fitness (Lenz, Starkoff, Foley,...