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Thinking of taking a break over Christmas?

Published: December 1, 2021

As we head into the busy Christmas period our structures often fly out of the window. Our days are consumed with trying to find the perfect Christmas present for every person we’ve ever said hi to, planning our 5 course Christmas lunch, or attending a Christmas party or two every weekend.  The great plans you have put in place over the year to focus on your health and well-being are put on the back burner.

Taking a 2-3 week break from your active schedule can reduce your capacity to complete activities that were easy for you previously. The evidence is conflicting about how much capacity you would lose as it differs from each person and depends on where you are in your training journey. For example, if you have just started to improve your cardiovascular fitness once the weather started to get better, you would lose your cardiovascular capacity quicker than a seasoned athlete. You might be able to comfortably run 5km in 30 minutes now but after a 3 week break your time might blow out to 40-45 minutes. At the end of the day, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

So how can we stay active over the festive season? If you have been unlucky in getting Christmas off from work this year, or if you have family from all over the state (or country if you’re lucky enough to have borders open) it can seem impossible. But I’m here to say, the best exercise is the exercise that gets done.

Importance of continuing treatment plan even if you're busy

It doesn’t matter if it’s not up to your usual standard. Maybe you haven’t managed to get in both sets of exercises we’ve prescribed to you, but at least you’re doing one. While your issue won’t improve as quickly as if you complete both sets, you certainly won’t regress. Just remember pain won’t go away during the holidays just because you are.

Stay active but don’t overdo it

WHOO! I have some time off! Time to get into the swing of things and really commit to my treatment plan.

Wait. Be careful. We have set specific exercises and their parameters cautiously so to progressively improve muscle control/strength or improve cardiovascular fitness. It is important to adhere to these parameters as to not injure yourself. Only progress your exercises if your physiotherapist has shown you the safe way to do so.

Avoid sitting for long periods

This is hard when the family is all sitting around the table in a food coma after Christmas lunch, but this can actually give you more pain. The body is made to move, and if you stay in a prolonged position it can lead to an increase in your symptoms or even new symptoms. We recommend getting up and moving every 30 minutes to help keep things pain free. Of course, there are ways to prolong the need to get up. Things such as good posture, pelvic tilts movements and lumbar roll supports can help if you are needing to sit for too long.

Buy gifts that encourage physical activity

Choosing between a scooter and an Xbox? Choose the scooter, encourage fitness and activity. Seek activity and adventure-based presents instead of things that can clutter homes. This not only keeps people active but often is more enjoyable and creates longer-lasting memories.

Increased injury risk

Any new activity can increase the risk of injury. It doesn’t matter if it's an ‘easy’ activity, it can still be enough to cause you pain. When we are thrown out of our daily structure our body doesn’t know what to do with itself. Most injuries are caused by prolonged positions, poor posture, overload, repetitive movements or unusual activities. We can reduce the risk of injuries by paying attention to what we are doing and being more body aware.

Don’t ignore the pain

The quicker you seek treatment for pain or any other type of symptom the better and quicker results you’ll have. Luckily for you we are only closed public holidays, so we are always here to help. If you can’t get to us quickly then ice 15 minutes every 2-3 hours, avoid activities that make it worse but continue gentle movement until we can see you. 

So should you take a break over Christmas, or shouldn't you? From my list above hopefully, you'll be able to do both!

Shayne Richter | Physiotherapist

Shayne is our GLA:D trained physiotherapist, helping clients who have knee or hip pain. GLA:D stands for Good Life with osteoArthritis: Denmark and is an education and exercise program developed by researchers in Denmark for people with hip or knee osteoarthritis symptoms. Research from the GLA:D® program in Australia shows an average pain reduction of 36%, reduced analgesic consumption, reduction in perceived need for surgery, and clinically meaningful improvement in joint confidence.