Students and participants in the Biokinetic
Humanitarian Project at the KwaZulu-Natal Blind
and Deaf Society.

In a bid to “give back” to the blind and deaf community in an active way, the Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences (BELS) at UKZN, together with the Biokinetics Humanitarian Project (BHP), embarked this year on an outreach programme for the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society.

As part of its aim to foster physical activity and patient education in underprivileged communities, fundamental exercise testing and screenings were conducted by the Biokinetics Honours students.

The first component of the programme was conducted in June. This included basic health screening and selected fitness tests. Blood glucose, resting blood pressure, body fat and muscular endurance tests like sit-ups and push-ups were conducted.

In the recent follow-up session, students informed participants at the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society about the benefits of exercise and healthy eating, encouraging them to eat more lean meats, fruits and vegetables, as well as to exercise to stay healthy and de-stress.

The session focused on teaching participants the basic principles of exercise. Participants performed a wide variety of exercises and games. Warm-up, cardio, resistance and core exercises were demonstrated and performed, along with sensory and balance exercises. Activities to test and help improve hand-eye co-ordination were also performed.

One participant, Ms Naseerah Maharaj, who has worked at the KZN Blind and Deaf Society for 24 years, described the activities as “exciting”. ‘It was lovely for us to interact and get a little exercise while having fun at the same time. The students get their experience as well while working with us and it’s a great exchange. It’s something that we can all look forward to,’ she said.

Dr Rowena Naidoo, KwaZulu-Natal BHP Co-ordinator, explained that the programme was still in its early stages, but had already made progress. ‘It provides an opportunity for the community members, athletes and staff from the Blind and Deaf Society to learn more about exercise and how to improve one’s health profile. Some who attended were regular athletes, but after doing some of the exercises, they found that they weren’t as strong as they could be, and that these sessions can help them to exercise better,’ she said.

The Discipline of BELS will be providing ongoing support to the KZN Blind and Deaf Society. Further to health screening and physical activity sessions, students will also be assisting with the training of sports coaches and promoting physical activity and sport among learners from various schools for the blind and deaf.