Updated: Dec 3 2021
Seasons greetings from all of us at Sport and Spinal Physiotherapy.
Top 9 Holiday Tips to Optimise Your Health & Wellbeing
Looking ahead to the busy holiday season, it is very easy to get out of your normal routine. The nature of Canberra whereby interstate travel is essential for many of us, I have complied 9 of the best ways to stay fit and healthy this Christmas and New Years.
1. Optimise Your Travel
The drive (or flight) – Us Canberrans have a lot of travel interstate to contend with around this time of year. Dividing your trip into short segments and sticking to having a break every two hours is of utmost importance. Spend this time doing some simple back extension exercises (hands on hips and lean back). This takes pressure off your back and will keep you nice and limber.
Before you go, check the seat height. Ideally, your hips should be level with your knees to maintain the spine’s normal contour. A lumbar support roll can be a useful addition to your travel requirements as it prevents poor posture and the associated aches and pains in your neck and back. If you swap drivers, spend an extra 2 minutes adjusting your seat height and distance from the wheel, as well as all of your mirrors. If you are flying, attempt to get up and move around every 90 minutes to maintain muscle length and promote circulation around the body.
2. BYO Pillow
Bring your own pillow – How many times have we slept on a relative’s couch or blow up mattress and woken up with horrific neck pain? Be organised by bringing your own pillow to alleviate the stress on one of the most important (and easily damaged) areas of the body. Research has demonstrated that a pillow can significantly alleviate neck pain.
3. Watch Your Nutrition
Food/hydration – All of those extra little nibbles and chocolates are in abundance at this time of year. Opt for fruit or nuts instead. Watch the amount of food you intake (especially Christmas day). Whilst being merry and enjoying your food and company should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, take your time to really chew and savour your food. This way you will become full faster and subsequently eat a little less.
4. Stay Hydrated
Alcohol, in excess, on top of rich and heavy food equates to that nasty bloating feeling at the end of the day. Ensuring you stay well hydrated with water, especially in the warmer weather, will have the knock on effect of sleeping better and reduces the chances of headaches. This last point is also particularly important when driving as staying hydrated will keep you more alert.
5. Optimise Your Fitness
Exercise/stretch – This is the best time of year weather wise, so getting out and enjoying the warmth is definitely what summer is all about. Ensure 10 minutes of stretching before that long walk or swim to ensure your muscles stay healthy. Incorporate family activities such as beach cricket or touch football in the backyard to break up hours of sitting. It will make for those new years resolutions regrading fitness and health all the more easier if you have maintained some form physical activity whilst on you holidays.
6. Sun Protection
Be sun smart. Try and get your outdoor activities finished up with before 10am or after 4pm where the UV rating is lower. A reminder about wearing a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a shirt to prevent the awfulness of being burnt (especially on a break away from work!). Set a reminder every 2 hours to re-apply sunscreen.
Okay, so we all love our thongs/flip-flops/jandals in December, yet we are doing our feet a disservice by continuing to rely on this type of footwear. For the long walks on the beach or hiking, sturdy and comfortable shoes are the only way to go. Our podiatrist Cecilia Brennan has written an excellent article outlining the best footwear for your holidays.
8. Watch Your Back
Safe Lifting – Picture this: you have just gotten a load of Christmas shopping (more than your average shop), you are rushing up the stairs trying to do the entire load at once, you juggle with the keys to find the lock and then with one final swoop, you act like the hulk and lift everything in your hands up onto the counter. This is a common story we see in the clinic- carrying to much load whilst rotating or straining. Take your time, get a helper, do 2 trips to the car and back! Thinking about the little things will get you moving better and for longer.
This can be especially true after arriving at your destination. Your back has been in one position for a prolonged period of time. The one thing you want to avoid is straining it by lifting heavy bags. Ideally go for a walk or swim, do some stretching and unwind before taking on the bags.
9. Social Connection for Mental Health
Finally, it is truly the best time of year catching up with your friends and family, as well as to unwind from the year. Yet some of us are not that fortunate to have a harmonious social lifestyle with our relatives. Sometimes saying ‘Hi’ to your neighbour or actually smiling at the checkout person can give the person on the receiving end a boost. Remember to call that friend that you’ve been too busy to keep in contact with or that Aunty that you seldom see. What we take for granted in everyday life is actually a big deal for some people.
I sincerely wish everyone a terrific holiday and a lovely Christmas. We thank our many staff for their contributions throughout the year. Furthermore, the clients have, as always, been a terrific part of our team here at Sport and Spinal Physiotherapy. All the best.