An ever-increasing body of clinical and scientific information indicates that most Charcot-Marie-Tooth patients, when not contraindicated, should regularly participate in exercise and physical activity.
Several health organizations and agencies, including the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine, advocate exercise and activity in the management of chronic diseases, like CMT.
Buttoning a Shirt Can be a Challenge
Starting an exercise program can be intimidating to many CMT patients, when tasks such as buttoning a shirt, navigating stairs, or opening a car door are daily challenges. Foot deformities, balance deficiencies, and increased risk of falling also prevent those living with CMT from participating in regular forms of physical activity.
However, exercise has the potential to improve functional ability, independence, and quality-of-life for CMT patients. Brent Baker, PhD, Research Biologist and Team Leader at CDC/NIOSH, and The Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation’s collaborating expert Dr. Robert Chetlin, PhD, CSCS, CHFS at West Virginia University School of Medicine, are part of a research team
exploring resistance-type exercise training in the management of CMT disease symptoms and progression in transgenic CMT1A rats.
These unique transgenic animals are trained on a dynamometer, which induces stretch-shortening muscle contractions (SSCs). These are the coordinated muscle lengthening and shortening movements used daily in human and animal activities.
The initial findings revealed enhanced muscle performance and muscle quality in these animals, suggesting that SSC-exercise training may be the preferred mode of resistance-type training. These results may serve as a foundation for establishing a resistance-type exercise training regimen to increase quality-of-life and independence for CMT patients.
Future studies will focus on the type, quantity, and frequency of training that provides optimal functional benefit, as well as the possible effects of dietary supplements and other therapies in transgenic CMT1A rats.
Human Success Stories
Muscle matters! Physical activity is very important for people living with CMT. It is also equally important that an exercise program be developed with the advice from informed professionals, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, orthopedists, and exercise physiologists familiar with CMT, and knowledgeable about the best exercise and activity programs to help patients on an individual basis.
Read these inspirational stories from our community and how those living with CMT are staying physically active despite the challenges they face: