Active Living with CMT: Exploring the Health Benefits of Urban Living for People with CMT

By Mike Driedger

As someone living with CMT, I’ve found that living in a city — in my case, Toronto — has made living a healthy and active lifestyle easy.

Of course, urban living might not work for you. But I’d like to share with you how I owe much of my health, mobility, and happiness to living in a walkable and cycleable community.

To start, let me introduce myself. My name’s Mike. I’m a 39-year-old male living in Toronto with my wife, and I have CMTX. While I haven’t begun using AFOs yet, my CMT has progressed to the point that I do regularly walk with a cane for stability — like many of you, I’m a wobbly guy who’s prone to falling down.

I live just outside of Toronto’s downtown core in a 25-storey apartment building. I originally moved in because it had both a swimming pool and a gym, which has made daily exercise, especially in our harsh Canadian winter, so much easier — all I have to do is go downstairs! Even at the end of a long day, having the pool and gym only a few floors away makes it hard to be lazy. On average, I swim about two km (1.2 miles) each week. And now, after 12 years of living with these amenities, I can’t imagine living without them.

Mike at the pool!

Toronto is a dense metropolis with many walkable neighborhoods. Most of central Toronto has a high walk score, which means most amenities — such as grocery stores, pharmacies, community centers, restaurants, and bars — are within walking distance to residential areas. So, I walk a lot. I walk for groceries with a wheeled “drag bag.” I walk to run errands, go out to restaurants, and to meet up with friends and family.

Using a “drag bag” in town.

For distances a little farther away, I walk to public transit stops, take a bus, subway, or streetcar, and then walk the rest of the trip. As I already mentioned, I walk with a cane most of the time, but occasionally switch to walking poles in the winter.

When I’m not walking, I’m biking. I bicycle to work most of the year, except during the iciest and snowiest months of winter. During those months I drive my car — yes, I have a car, but only drive about 6,500 km (4,000 miles) a year.

My office is about 8 km (or 5 miles) from home, so it’s a reasonable bike ride both ways. I’m also lucky that my employer values active transportation and has shower facilities for employees. This seems to be something that more and more urban-based employers are providing, and it’s definitely appreciated.

So I’ve managed to set myself up with an active lifestyle where I can swim, walk, and bike regularly: urban living has allowed me to stay physically active on a regular basis. In fact, many urban centres like Toronto actually make it harder and more expensive to drive than to walk, cycle, or take public transit. By default, I’m active and getting physical exercise just going about my daily life. Whether heading to work, shopping for groceries, running errands, visiting friends, or heading out on the town, I’m using my own body to get there. Plus, having a gym and pool in my building means I don’t have any excuses, even when I’m home.

Luckily for me, my wife loves being active and exercising too, and maybe even more than I do — she often pushes me to keep going. We often joke that our hobby is exercise.

As someone with CMT, I find that this works really well to ensure I’m fit and staying active. Not only do my daily routines and life keep me mobile, but I actually enjoy swimming, cycling, and going on long walks in my spare time. Urban living has made all of this easy.

I’ve found that the best path for physical health is about making exercise as easy and as part of your daily routine as you can. Look, even if big-city living won’t work for you, maybe it would benefit someone you know. If you’re young and still trying to figure out where you want to live for school or work, at least consider the simple health benefits of living in a more accessible and walkable city or town. As a person with CMT, you don’t need to “find time” to be active — it’ll just happen.

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Mike Driedger is the Co-Leader of the CMTA Toronto, Canada Branch. He’s also on the CMTActive Facebook team, moderating the group and encouraging members to be active in their daily lives. Mike himself is passionate about keeping active and a proponent of active transportation. He cycles to get to work and walks, swims and cycles in his free time. He’s a Program Director focused on work engaging people and businesses on issues related to health and the environment. Mike has a BA in environmental studies with a sociology stream and a graduate certificate in environmental management and assessment. Mike lives in Toronto with his wife, Adrienne, and their mischievous cat, Diego. He loves to explore the sights, sounds and tastes within his own city, as well as in destinations around the world.

Mike participated in the VIRTUAL Cycle 4 CMT, riding 1,000 km throughout the month of August, raising an amazing $3,800 for CMTA research – STAR or Strategy to Accelerate Research. If you’d like to donate to Mike’s efforts, go to: https://cmta.akaraisin.com/ui/cycle/participant/6048747

If you’d like to contact Mike, his email is: mdriedger@gmail.com

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