Maria Johnson Shares How To Stay Healthy During Quarantine

Girl Gone Blind

I’m Maria Johnson from Girl Gone Blind, and I have Lebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. I am a mother, certified group fitness instructor, blogger, speaker, podcaster, and consultant, all while being legally blind. On May 19, I co-hosted a webinar with eSight to talk tips, tricks and accessible resources for exercising to stay healthy during this time of quarantine.

Maria Johnson, from Girl Gone Blind.
Maria Johnson, from Girl Gone Blind.

Exercising At Home

Before the quarantine, I worked out at a gym and did pilates at a studio, but when everything closed down, I initially felt lost on what to do. The participants also expressed that they preferred having the accountability of being in a gym or class with others, as the group setting can be extremely encouraging. If you’re feeling this way too, I would advise to recreate your daily exercise routine even during quarantine, because it can be easy to spiral down to where you no longer want to do anything. I recommended to always think about what’s going to make you feel better, because I know that exercise always makes me feel better, even if it’s just walking or stretching. 

Woman exercising at home.

Accessible Resources for Exercising

Here are some recommendations that we came up with for low-vision accessible resources for exercising:

  • I have recently been following a series of audio-described workouts on YouTube by “Eyes-Free Fitness.”
  • As well, there is an app called “Aaptiv” with a 7 day free trial, with hundreds of different workout sessions led by fitness instructors. It does have an eventual subscription of about $10 a month, but that is one of the cheapest “gym” memberships around.
  • If I cannot find anything I like in either of the above resources, I will listen and test out different workouts online to see if the instructor has sufficient description for me to be able to access it.
  • A participant also mentioned that premium Fitbit accounts have audio workouts that you can download to your phone. But a caution that the fitbit itself isn’t very low vision friendly.

Keeping Kids Active During Quarantine

It can be hard to keep your kids exercising at home but I recommend proposing a challenge for the whole family to stay healthy during quarantine. You can set up a calendar where every day, everyone has to do 4 different exercises 20 times each, which can include things like jumping jacks, sit-ups, and push-ups. The goal is to try and do this all together, and if the kids do it for 7 days in a row, you can reward them with a little prize. Kids love competition! It is so important to keep them moving because exercise is a boredom and stress buster for kids as well.

How to Run Outdoors with Low Vision

A participant posed the question of whether it was possible to run outside if you have little to no vision. I wrote about a similar topic on my blog regarding tips for guiding blind walkers

Running with a Friend

I suggest finding a friend who will run with you, and use a tether between the two of you. The tether can be anything from a piece of short rope to a shoestring, as long as you can hold it between each other. My friend will pull a little if we’re about to turn a corner, which helps me know that we’re going to veer to the left or right. I used to be mortified hanging onto this tether, but this is definitely the safest way, which is the more important factor. You only need it the first few runs until you can master the route for yourself.

Alternative Options

Sometimes, I may also run along a track as long as I can find one with a dark background and stark white lines because the contrast is effective for my vision. 

Woman running alone along a track.

Another participant shared that their parent had macular degeneration, and he simply runs in his bedroom. 

Healthy Eating Habits

During lockdown, it is easy to get bored and stressed, both of which can lead to absent-minded snacking and cravings for carbs and sugars. To stay healthy during quarantine, I recommend that you try to keep good eating habits most of the time, which means having regular meals and keeping snacking to a minimum. Although there can be a stigma around pre-packaged foods, I love pre-packaged salads for example, because they would take a long time to make from scratch. Getting pre-packaged fresh foods is convenient and allows me to stay on track for healthy eating. 

Getting the Kids Involved

Including your kids in the cooking process is a great opportunity to teach them about prepping food and meal planning:

  • Any picky eaters will likely be more interested in eating the finished product if they had a hand in choosing the ingredients and making the dish.
  • One participant explained that after their teenagers became involved in meal planning and cooking, they started to take a much more active interest in the kitchen.
  • If your kids are apprehensive, you can start with simple recipes or perhaps even healthy fast-food alternatives. After they feel proud and accomplished of what they have cooked up, they will certainly be itching to make more.
  • Another participant suggested having particular meals at certain times in the week that kids can look forward to making, such as Taco Tuesday. 

Family cooking together in the kitchen.

Eating in Moderation

It is important to recognize that there are days where it’s okay to not be on point with exactly how many fruit and vegetable servings you and your family are getting. If you don’t feel well, give yourself time to recover. If it’s someone’s birthday, it’s okay to have a piece of cake. I had to learn to accept having days where I don’t do everything as well as I wanted to, but to be able to tell myself that I will take it on the next day when I am feeling up to it. You haven’t blown it completely if you haven’t eaten perfectly on one occasion.

Did you enjoy reading about Maria Johnson’s accessible resources for exercising? Read more about our community’s favourite accessible entertainment for low vision children.

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