Parkinson’s Gym Bag Essentials

Regular exercise is a healthy must for everyone, but it’s especially important if you have Parkinson’s disease. Easy and fun workouts like dancing, yoga and playing golf (just to name a few) are proven to ease PD-related stiffness and improve balance and walking.

All of us at the Brian Grant Foundation want to see you move it and thrive! But before you put on those sneakers, think about the proper steps you should take to get the safest and best workout for your needs. Before you leave the house, be sure to toss these must-have items into your gym bag.

Water bottle

Don’t leave home without this exercise essential. PD meds increase the risk for dehydration. Add a sweaty workout to that mix and your risk goes up. You’re more likely to lose your balance when you’re dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout. For an added boost, try tonic water. It contains quinine, which may help relieve muscle cramps.

Salty snack

Parkinson’s can make your blood pressure drop. A salty snack can help restore sodium lost from sweating and boost blood pressure too. If your doctor says salt is safe for you, consider a glass of V8 juice. Or, try a salty-sweet trail mix with pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and a dash of dark chocolate. This snack packs powerful antioxidants, which are believed to fight cell damage linked to Parkinson’s.

Sturdy shoes

Choose tennis or athletic shoes that have plenty of toe room (“a full toe box”). Your sneakers should be sturdy, supportive and fit you well. If you struggle with shoelaces, go for the Velcro variety. Several athletic brands offer sneakers with Velcro closures that won’t make you feel like you’re in an 80s music video (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Collapsible cane

People with Parkinson’s have an understandable fear of falling. Put those fears to rest by investing in a collapsible cane to use during times when you need some extra support. If you have difficulty with balance at the gym, consider storing a fold-up cane or walking stick in your workout bag. Make sure the cane has a rubber tip.

Protective gear

Consider wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace that lists your name, phone number and diagnosis. Or, bring your phone and ID card, and keep it with you at all times. Your phone should contain your name, diagnosis and the contact information for a friend or loved one. Some mobile phones have a medical ID app that can be accessed in emergencies without unlocking the phone.

Don’t forget this!

Finally, remember to bring along a sense of accomplishment. “Any day at the gym is a great step in the right direction,” says Dr. Melita Petrossian, neurologist and director of the Movement Disorders Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

Exercise better with Parkinson’s. Learn more about the benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s disease and find fun classes in your area by connecting with the Power Through Project.

By Kelli Miller