“Children and adults with chronic disease and disability, whom are capable, should engage in regular forms of activity and exercise.” This is the recent recommendation from the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation to people with Charcot-Marie-Tooth. But, what sorts of exercises are best? And, how can you get started? We’ll answer these questions and more below.
Engage in the Four Modalities of Exercise
There are four types of exercise for CMT: strength, endurance, stretching, and balance. For the best results, you need to have at least some aspect of each in your exercise program. The good news is that you can do all of these exercises without having to step foot into a gym. Before getting started, though, you should get guidance from a professional experienced in CMT.
Strength Training – Muscles that are affected heavily by CMT cannot be built up. But, you can strengthen your other muscles. Gentle toning exercises, especially those targeting the core muscles, two or three times per week will help compensate for CMT-related weaknesses.
Endurance – Swimming, cycling, and walking are all good endurance exercises that use several muscles. Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve sleep, boost mood and help maintain cardiovascular fitness.
Stretching – You can prevent pain and range of motion loss in the ankles and other joints through stretching exercises. People with CMT should stretch their heel cords every day.
Balance – Everyone with CMT has to deal with balance issues. There are many balance exercises you can do at home. For instance, modified chair yoga and tai-chi have been shown to be helpful.
How to Become More Active
Becoming active is tough, especially if you have spent most of your life engaged in sedentary endeavours. The key is to start slow and to have as much fun with exercise as you can. You are more likely to stick to an exercise program if it is something you look forward to. Begin with a couple stretching exercises for your lower body and a balance exercise. Five minutes per day should do it. You can even pop on the news or a favourite song. Over time, add a few gentle hip girdle or core toning exercises up to three times a week and some moderate-intensity endurance training two to five times per week. The length of time you work out will vary, but avoid excessive fatigue and muscle pain.
With these tips, you will slow the nerve damage in your body, fight fatigue, and feel better about yourself too.
Jane Hatton – Freelance Writer