Palo Alto, CA — Trying out new ways to exercise can be daunting for anyone, especially for people with vision loss. Fortunately, community organizations such as Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired offer services that foster independent living and exploration of new hobbies. Currently, Vista Center reaches thousands of people and has three locations throughout the Bay Area: Palo Alto, San Jose, and Santa Cruz.
Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., Stanford associate professor and vice chair of ophthalmology research, often refers his patients to Vista Center for vision rehabilitative services, including assistive technology and adaptive skills training, and community events, such as book clubs, ceramics classes, and fitness workshops.
Some of the most popular workshops at Vista Center are TRX training classes. Short for “total body resistance exercise,” TRX is a suspension training system that uses your body weight and gravity as resistance for full body workouts to develop strength. The best part is that the set-up is easy; the TRX bands can be anchored to the top of any door and have two hand-held grips. Without needing to see or navigate weight machines, people can hold onto the grips and perform bicep curls, rows, chest presses, squats, or lunges. Additionally, people can customize the workout’s difficulty just by repositioning their body angle to change the amount of resistance.
Jen Vu, a student researcher in the Mahajan Lab and a Vista Center volunteer since 2019, helped teach TRX classes for kids and adults. As a former D1 student-athlete at Stanford, Vu used TRX bands while training with her teammates and loved that these workshops intersected her interests in sports, community-building, and ophthalmology.
The in-person workshop was led by Randy Hetrick, the founder of TRX and a former U.S. Navy SEAL, and Walt Raineri, an avid blind sports athlete. While on deployment, Hetrick created the TRX prototype from a jujitsu belt and parachute webbing. He eventually attended Stanford Graduate School of Business and founded TRX.
Vu said, “It’s exciting that TRX makes exercise more accessible and can help those with vision loss to get moving in a safe and fun way. A lot of people enjoy the workshops, no matter their age or experience level.”
“There is a growing body of research highlighting the benefits of exercise on keeping our eyes healthy, especially as we age,” Mahajan added. “Vista Center’s TRX workshops exemplify the strong teamwork among people with vision loss, clinicians, entrepreneurs, researchers, donors, and community leaders to cultivate a culture of healthy living.”