Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Health-Related Physical Fitness among Young Goalball Players with Visual Impairments

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Health-Related Physical Fitness among Young Goalball Players with Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

The achievement of higher levels of physical activity has been shown to provide significant health benefits for children and youths (Biddle & Asare, 2011; Strong et al., 2005). Recently, Sacheck and Hall (2015) linked physical fitness to the ability to be physically active, and found that poor physical fitness is tied to an increased risk of lifestyle diseases in adulthood. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the accumulation of at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on a daily basis in an effort to improve physical fitness levels and the overall health of young people (WHO, 2010). Unfortunately, most boys and girls do not meet this recommendation, and research has demonstrated that a number of barriers (for example, personal, social, environmental, policy, and programmatic) further negatively impact youths with disabilities' engagement in physical activity (Shields, Synnot, & Barr, 2012). Specifically, youngsters with visual impairments engage in lower levels of physical activity (Aslan, Calik, & Kitis, 2012), spend less time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (Houwen, Hartman, & Visscher, 2009; Kozub & Oh, 2004), and achieve lower levels of physical fitness (Lieberman & McHugh, 2001) when compared to their sighted peers. Considered a major health issue affecting many life domains, visual impairment refers to limited vision in the better eye after correction (with eyeglasses or contact lenses). Worldwide, approximately 1% of the population from birth to 14 years of age has at least a moderate level of visual impairment, with 10% of those being totally blind (Pascolini & Mariotti, 2012).

Contemporary approaches to physical fitness assessment have relied more on the adoption of health-related, criterion-referenced tests than on performance-based, norm-referenced evaluation (Plowman, 2014). As such, the Fitnessgram has been one of the most common protocols used in several research studies (Plowman et al., 2006). For instance, Guedes, Miranda-Neto, Germano, Lopes, and Silva (2012) evaluated a sample of nearly three thousand Brazilian schoolchildren (6 to 18 years old) and found an overall age-related decline in the passing rates on the five assessed tests (back-saver sit-and-reach, curl-up, trunk-lift, push-up, and endurance run). In addition, Welk, Meredith, Ihmels, and Seeger (2010) assessed almost 12,000 school-level American boys and girls and found an age-related decline in the cardiovascular passing rates, which was not observed in other fitness dimensions. Moreover, by evaluating 85 Native Americans, Brusseau, Finkelstein, Kulinna, and Pangrazi (2014) found passing rate patterns similar to the previously mentioned studies. In their study, fewer than a third of participants reached the standard on muscular strength and body composition, whereas more than 60% were successful on flexibility, aerobic fitness, and muscular endurance. Overall, these studies provide important information on components of health-related physical fitness of youths.

Although not validated for groups with visual impairments, Lieberman and McHugh (2001) also used the Fitness-gram protocol to assess 46 participants with vision loss and noted no difference of passing rates among groups with different levels of visual impairments. However, considerable difference was found when their results were compared to sighted youths. Based on the Fitnessgram, Winnick and Short (1999) developed the Brockport Physical Fitness Test (BPFT), a validated test with health-related standards for various groups with disabilities including those with visual impairments. Until now, the only study using the BPFT to test whether children and youths with visual impairments meet a minimal physical fitness level was performed by Lieberman, Byrne, Mattern, Watt, and Fernandez-Vivo (2010). They found that 152 participants, ages 10-17, with undetermined sport training history, had low passing rates on upper-body strength, cardiovascular endurance, and body composition. …

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