I never thought that one day I would wake up and not be able to see. But here we are, 7 years later and through this change I’ve realized the secret to happiness. Now I know you might be thinking I’m going to talk about chocolate, a loving family or being financially stable – I’m not. (Those things are great too, though). In this blog, I am going to tell you why I think physical activity is the secret to true happiness! WAIT - If you just groaned, give me a chance! Physical activity helped a young 21-year-old me who had just gone blind become a happy, healthy 28-year-old successful blind man – and it can help you improve your life too!
I’m sure you know that being active is good for you, but did you know just how good it is?! According to the World Health Organization these are just a few of the benefits of being physically active:
- Improved mental health
- Improved sleep
- Improves cognitive health
- Can reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer
(You can read way more about the benefits at this website.
Throughout my vision loss journey, I fell into many different sports and outdoor physical activity opportunities. Each one has shown me that there are numerous opportunities for people to be active you just need to be open to trying new things! To get the benefits of physical activity you simply need to show up and work with what you got. If you are new to physical activity, here are some things I got involved in as a blind man (and if you are visually impaired these might be great opportunities for you too):
- Blind baseball (here is the link to more about the sport – this was one of the first sports I got into after going blind)
- Rowing (Check out Brock University or Rowing Clubs in your city)
- Tandem cycling (check out BC Blind Sports or RAD Recreation Adaptive Society for tandem bikes across BC. Reach out to us if you need resources in your area.)
- Running (check out Facebook running groups for guides, and there are many running groups in stores like Frontrunners or the Running Room)
Some other great ways to get started on your activity journey are:
- Walk around your neighbourhood
- Sign up for a run in your community
- Find a walking buddy
- Go swimming at your local pool
- Try an at home yoga video (this is one of my favourites)
Purpose and Community
Just last month, I raced my second half-marathon completing it in 90 minutes – making me the fastest blind man there (I may have also been the only blind runner but who’s counting). Running has given me independence as a blind man, because I can run at a track or a familiar route independently. But running has also given me community. I am lucky to say I’ve run with many wonderful guides and to them I am grateful. If you are sighted – getting into being a guide might be a great purpose for your physical activity journey.
I hope that wherever you are in life – whether it’s a happy chapter or challenging one – you remember that physical activity will always be there. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to give it a try.
My name is James Kwinecki and I am a 28 year old blind man. I grew up in St. Catharine’s Ontario. I was born with vision but at the age of 21 I lost my sight to a rare genetic disease called Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. I had been involved in sports throughout my life, but they really provided me with community, purpose, and opportunities when I became a visually impaired man. I got into rowing through Brock University in 2018. That’s when I decided to start an Undergrad degree. I moved out to Victoria, BC in 2020 to row with the National Para Team. Since then, I have been continuing my education at the University of Victoria while rowing, running, and swimming on the side! I recently started working for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind as a Smart Life Coach. I love being involved in the community and I think the best way to do that is through physical activity! I live in beautiful Victoria with my amazing girlfriend, Sydney. Keep an eye out for me at local running races (I’ll be the tall one with a “blind runner” vest).