If you’re currently in a rehabilitation program to recover from an injury, you may be starting to think about how to keep your progress going over the Christmas break. For various reasons it may be hard to access your usual programs over Christmas, either because of business closures or because of personal travel during this time.

Here are some tips to ensure you keep improving your strength and fitness over the Christmas break:

  • Ask your providers now whether they will close over Christmas and how long they will be closed for.
  • Talk to your physio / exercise physiologist about an exercise program you can do at home to keep your progress going through the break. Think of what would be the best way for you to remember the exercises – you could write them down or even film them on your phone.
  • If you usually do weights at the gym and don’t have access to these at home, you can substitute various sized bottles and fill with water – 1L water = 1 kg.
  • Simply stay active! While specific exercises targeted at your injury are useful, a lot of research has found non-specific exercise to be effective in rehabilitation and pain reduction. This involves activities that incorporate the full body such as walking, hiking, running, cycling, swimming, dance, boxing, circuit classes, Pilates, the list is endless. Do approach this with caution, for example you may not want to do boxing three weeks after a shoulder surgery, but instead going for regular walks could provide some light movement to prevent shoulder pain and stiffness. Discuss with your health provider what some safe general exercise options could be for you!
  • If you are usually doing a hydrotherapy program and your hydro pool has closed, you may be able to access other pools that are open through this time to do a modified program on your own. Ask your hydro provider to help you put together a program you can do independently.
  • Set a reminder on your phone/calendar to remind you to do your exercises regularly if your routine is changed over Christmas.
  • Have a family member or friend either join you or keep you accountable – tell them specifically what exercise(s) you intend to do and how often.

Do what you can but also don’t forget to chill out, have some fun, spend some quality time with friends and family, and schedule some me-time. You’re allowed to let your rehab slip a little for a week or two and come back refreshed, just be ready to ease back into it in the New Year – taking that one step back at first will have you moving forward much sooner.

If you are thinking “awesome, I finally have the perfect ergonomic position at my workstation; my eyes line up with the top of the monitor, I’ve got my lumbar support chair, my hips are at a comfortable 90 degrees, my feet are propped up to the exact right height, now I mustn’t budge from this position,” then you may need to adjust priorities.

Something we emphasise with our office-worker clients is that while ergonomic set-up is certainly helpful, the most important tool to prevent sedentary work injury is to move. Often that stiffness in your neck or back when you wake up in the morning isn’t because you slept wrong, or your desk isn’t set up right, it is most likely because you did not move enough the previous day.

Here are some tips to fit movement into your day:

  • Set a timer for every 15 minutes to do some sort of movement (you can cycle between quick neck stretches, a few sit-to-stand movements, walking… listen to your body)
  • Many people have trouble doing the above as they want to “get stuck into” a task for a longer period without distractions. This is fine, instead you can compensate by taking longer movement breaks when you finish tasks.
  • Another alternative to a timer is connecting movement to daily habits that you have already developed such as getting a coffee, going to the bathroom, or collecting printing. Every time you do one of these habitual tasks, let that be a reminder to do a quick movement for instance:
    • 10 squats
    • 20 heel raises
    • 15 wall push-ups
    • Walk up and down a staircase
  • Have a small cup of drinking water so that you need to walk to fill it up frequently
  • Choose to use a bathroom that is the furthest from your desk
  • Use the stairs whenever you can
  • If you have a sit to stand desk, change from sitting to standing (or vice versa) every hour
  • Take standing/walking meetings
  • Give your colleague a message in person rather than sending an email
  • See our Facebook page for some simple stretches to break up your day
  • Smart watches have great apps to remind you to move
  • Go for a walk at lunch time – even 5 minutes makes a difference!

It will take time to develop these habits. Try adding one or two of these movements to your day, and when they have become habitual, then you can try adding more. Time should not be a barrier to beginning a movement habit, once these become integrated into your day you should find that you will become more alert and efficient in your other tasks.

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