Latest physical activity research for visually impaired

The three activities people with a visual impairment most want to get involved in are cycling, swimming and going to the gym. This is just one of the significant insights lifted from a comprehensive survey by Metro Blind Sport exploring the attitude, preferences and behaviours of its visually impaired network with regards to physical activity.

The survey, completed by 60 Metro Blind Sports members and 111 non-members, was conducted via an online survey. All participants were in some way already engaged with sport either directly through Metro Blind Sport or through one of the charity’s partners.

Key findings:

  • 40 per cent of participants would like to cycle, 39.5 per cent would like to swim and 35 per cent would like to go to the gym
  • 71 per cent of members surveyed are achieving the Chief Medical Officer’s recommended 150 minutes of activity per week
  • Factors that would increase participation are: facilities close to home (67 per cent), availability of specialist coaching (47 percent) and somebody to go with (43 per cent)
  • Main barriers to participation are: venue location (17 per cent), lack of information about available activities (14 per cent) and nobody to go with (14 per cent)
  • Besides 73 per cent quoting ‘better physical health as an outcome of personal involvement in sport, participants also reported: improved self-confidence (63 per cent), the formation of friendship groups (58 per cent), promotion of a positive attitude (55 per cent) and better mental health (50 per cent)
  • Almost half of participants (47 per cent) have to travel more than 5 miles to participate in sport with 28 per cent travelling more than 10 miles
  • Most popular reasons to participate are:  to improve general fitness (78 per cent), to have fun (70 per cent), to compete (53 per cent), to socialise (42 per cent) and to lower stress (41 per cent)
  • 94 per cent of participants feel more could be done to encourage participation amongst those with a visual impairment
Latest physical activity research for visually impaired
Photograph credit: Chris Vaughan Photography/Metro Blind Sports

The research forms part of a wider Impact Report, commissioned by Metro Blind Sport, to examine the influence the charity is having on participation and to establish what more could be done to engage those with sight loss or visual impairment.

Latest physical activity research for visually impaired

Martin Symcox, CEO at Metro Blind Sport, said:

“Most of the information we have about our community and its engagement with physical activity is anecdotal. We identified a need to better understand what our members and wider network gain from participation, barriers which prevented them engaging more and, given the opportunity, what activities they would like to be more involved in. Findings would then contribute to our ongoing strategic plans to encourage higher levels of participation in sport and physical activity.

“The research has certainly produced some valuable insight. For me, there are two standout learnings.

Latest physical activity research for visually impaired

“Firstly, our members and the wider network are significantly more physically active than the rest of the visually impaired population. 71 per cent of those surveyed are achieving 150 minutes of activity per week. This is a significant improvement on figures reported in the most recent Sport England Active Lives Survey, which states more than half (54 per cent) of people with a visual impairment are ‘inactive’, achieving less than 30 minutes per week.

“Our survey results suggest that, through the availability of information, the provision of an inclusive, accessible environment with specialist coaching support, plus an adequate choice of activity, the visually impaired community will engage. It is estimated that there are two million people in the UK, including 194,000 Londoners, living with sight loss that significantly impacts their life. This presents a significant opportunity for leisure operators who can reduce barriers and provide inclusive services.

“Secondly, the 2019 State of The Fitness Industry Report by The Leisure Database Company, states there are 2,729 public sector fitness facilities in the UK. All of these will be offering swimming, cycling and/or gym facilities. Our survey reports these are the activities most appealing to our visually impaired community, raising the question: ‘Why is there a disconnect between available facilities and engagement?”

Latest physical activity research for visually impaired

“Over the coming months, I plan to focus on this area. Working in collaboration with leisure operators and ukactive and providing access to our survey results, I want to help operators to better understand how to engage with the visually impaired community. In addition to the many social, mental and health benefits this will deliver to individuals, it will also open up a new market to operators who can engage with a greater percentage of their communities.”

To download a full copy of the impact report, If you would like to discuss any aspect of the report with Metro Blind Sport, contact the charity on