Staying sane during isolation

Hello readers! We hope everyone is staying safe at this very crazy and uncertain time. We realise for a lot of our clients that life has changed drastically over the past weeks and months since COVID-19 has made its entrance to the world. Here at Physio For Women we have also been adjusting to some changes that have been instilled upon us in the healthcare world. We want you to know that we are still here and continue to work hard every day to ensure we uphold our high standard of care for all our patients.

This month we thought a focus on self-help advice during isolation was warranted. Trying to juggle working from home whilst looking after children and adjusting to being around partners and other family members 24/7 is a big task for anyone. We’ve highlighted a few key areas that are worth considering to keep on top of your health (and sanity) during isolation.

Home office set-up

If you are used to working in an airy and spacious office or other workplace, then being plunged into the world of working from home can come as quite a shock. Many of you won’t necessarily have the space or equipment at home to match your workplace, so taking some time to set up a space that works for you is worth it, to reduce the impact on your body. We suggest the following:

  • If you can make it work, set yourself up in a separate room like a study and designate the space for work only. If this is not possible, choose a corner of any room and make it your own. This will allow you the best chance to concentrate on work when you are there.
  • If you don’t have a desktop set-up and are working on a laptop, ensure it is on a table and avoid working on your lap. A table with a supportive chair is best, and try to break it up with periods of standing at the breakfast bar or kitchen work top. Boom… You have your very own sit-to-stand desk!

For a desktop set-up, follow these pointers to reduce stress on your body whilst working:

  • Ensure the top of your computer screen is level with your eyes, or just under
  • Sit upright with feet planted on the floor, arms relaxed by your side, and elbows bent at 90 degrees
  • Avoid cocking your wrists back during and between typing. Keep them relaxed.

Work routine

This is a must if you have children and other family members at home who you will be interacting with more than usual. Have some set times during the day when you try to focus on work. We realise this is not always possible with children, but have the routine in place and use it loosely. Children need attention and interaction (now we realise how much they get at school!), so set your expectations low and be fluid. Have the colouring pencils, craft box, toys and games at the ready and set the kids some tasks for when you are working. And if you really need to get some work done and it’s just not happening, it is OK to allow the kids to watch TV or a movie for a few hours. Unusual circumstances may mean unusual routines for a while. Children are resilient and will bounce back from these changes… Everything in moderation.

Ensure you give yourself regular breaks from screen time to have a stretch, move the body, and give the brain a rest. We recommend getting up from your workstation every 30 minutes.

Family routine

You might be finding it tough being around the family 24/7. This is natural and don’t feel bad about it. It’s a good idea to set out some ground rules, particularly if you have to work on a daily basis. Everyone has a role to play to make sure the household cogs keep moving smoothly. One family member can do the washing, another can stack the dishwasher, etc… On top of this, allow time to get out and exercise and make sure you have alone time as well. Being around family can be challenging, especially when you are used to being at work for eight hours a day normally.

Seek out physio when needed

This is an important one. We realise it has not been as simple with booking appointments and getting that face-to-face time with us. But if you have any aches or pains that are not responding to exercise, stretching and other self-help remedies, then please get in touch. We are still open but are working to limited hours. We also have strict screening and hygiene protocols in place, and this is to ensure the safety of both you and us. Call us today on 08 8443 3355.

We wish all our clients the very best during this difficult time. Please practice social distancing, good coughing and sneezing etiquette, and wash your hands regularly with soap or alcohol hand sanitiser. These are still the best measures in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

We will get through this!

How important are you to yourself?

Hello readers! We trust everyone had a superb festive season. Now that the fun and frolics are over for another year, it’s back to the routine of everyday life… This may mean many of life’s stresses that disappeared temporarily during the Christmas carnage will rear their head again. This can be a bit of a shock to the system and before you know it, you’re immersed in work, family, keeping your home clean and slaving over the hob. But what about you? Where do YOU fit in to all of this? It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget about number one. Here at Physiotherapy for Women, we always ask the question ‘How important are you to yourself?’. Let’s discuss why this is important and what you can do to ensure you make 2020 more about you.

note with positive care messageSelf-care is a vital part of life. We know it’s a bit of a cliché, but if you don’t look after yourself first, how can you look after others, or work, or do anything? You’d be surprised how little time many of our patients spend looking after themselves. It often takes being in pain for someone to realise that something has to give, and change is needed. It’s also regularly the case that someone is stressed, exhausted and moving poorly (and not enough too!), which all play a role in why they have pain. And this is where we ask the questions about self-awareness and attitudes towards themselves.

Let’s give you an example… A working mum comes to us for help with neck and shoulder pain. She has two children, one at school, one at daycare, and her and her partner work a job each. The week is full of running around organising the kid’s drop-offs and pick-ups, working, cooking, cleaning and washing. Weekends are full of kids sports and visiting relatives. Sound familiar? Where is the time for anything else? For many it’s a source of stress in itself. Being time poor is a huge factor in why people fail to look after themselves and end up in pain (and stay there). For this working mum, her pain is now affecting her ability to ‘do’ life. The really hard thing is, something has to give if the cycle is to be broken and for her pain to become a thing of the past. She needs to prioritise self-care and learn that it is OK to spend time on herself. It is pivotal that she does, so she can get back on track ‘doing’ life.

As her physiotherapist, our primary goal is to get her out of pain. Our second goal is to keep her out of pain. And this is where advice on lifestyle, exercise and moving well (and often) comes into play. One of the hardest jobs we have as a physio is educating people on how to change their lives, so they can work towards preventing injury rather than waiting for it to happen and then seeking help. In the case of the working mum, it involves helping her change her attitude towards self-care to ensure she is running at 100%, so she can give everything she needs to her family and work. Some of the topics we might discuss with her and suggest changes to may include:

  • Exercise — a must for all humans. Our important bodily functions rely on us moving regularly. Try taking a walk in the evening once the kids are in bed (get your partner/family member/friend to watch over them). It will allow you to unwind from the days’ events whilst giving your body some valuable movement. Alternatively, reserve one evening in the week or weekend to attend a yoga or pilates class. Or think about what you can do at home (incidental exercise while doing mundane tasks, or a nightly 20 minutes of exercise in the lounge room or on the deck!)
  • Diet — a sticking point for time-poor people, but eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods will keep your energy levels pumping and ready for everything. Diets high in fast or nutrient poor food will leave you sluggish and tired. Try packing your own healthy lunch and snacks, when you pack your child’s lunchbox!
  • Meditation or mindfulness — a great way to have you time. It only requires 10-15 minutes a day and is a fantastic way to unwind and clear the mind. It takes practice but can be very beneficial to easing stress. We can advise on where to get started.
  • Keep a gratitude diary — every morning when you wake up, immediately write down 5 things you are grateful for. While you can pop it in the ‘notes’ section on your phone, try opting for a pad and paper on your bedside table. It helps give you focus on what’s important to you. This is great motivation for keeping yourself healthy, happy and grateful.

There are many other areas we may discuss with you. We won’t pretend it’s easy to make these changes, but we are here to help guide you through all of it one bit at a time. Our main message here is that whilst we appreciate you have many responsibilities and important things in your life, we would like you to make YOU a high priority. Yes, this is us telling you to read that book, take that bath and take up that hobby you’ve always wanted to! Be important to yourself and make 2020 a year for self-care.

Think Santa this Christmas!

Let’s spell it out loud and clear: SANTA (Straighten up, Active, Neck long, Take breaks, Action)

Take the S for Straighten up:

Good posture decreases our susceptibility to back pain.

Call on the A for Active:

Eating so much over the festive period requires us to be more active. Get outdoors, go for a walk, take a beach or park run with family and friends.

Sound out the N for Neck long:

Constantly looking down at our phones puts enormous strain on our necks and spines. Create ‘no phone’ policy during the festive period, allowing festive gatherings to be true social occasions. When using your phone bring it to eye level, so your neck is long.

Sing out T for Take breaks:

Christmas is always a busy time putting up decorations, wrapping presents and cooking up Christmas feasts. Our spine often feels the constant strain that we place on our bodies. Ask for help so that you are not doing all the tasks at once or on your own. Allow yourself to take frequent breaks.

Finally move the A into place for Action:

Do some simple movements outside of your repetitive movement zone as demonstrated by Santa. The action of arms out or arms up and a knee lift to the bent elbow is so easy.

Thank you, SANTA

3 Common Walking Myths Busted!

Walking as an exercise needs to be understood and respected. It is time to dismiss the commonly held idea around walking not being a worthwhile workout. Here we present the truth about three walking for exercise myths.

Myth #1: 10,000 Steps is the Holy Grail

“Wow, I’ve done it” is a common thought and produces a feeling of achievement when your fitness tracker signals you have hit the 10,000 step target. Perhaps this often used walking target is really only an arbitrary number when it comes to health benefits.

At Columbia University, Carol Ewing Garber, PhD, professor of movement sciences, believes the 10,000 step goal requires some rethinking.  “[Walking 10,000 steps] will result in health benefits,” Garber says. “But it should be noted that … there is benefit even with small amounts of walking and the benefits increase with the more steps you walk each day.”

Garber proposes that we change our goal setting thinking from how many steps we’ve walked in a day to how much moderate intensity exercise we do each week.

Based on research, Garber suggests that we aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This moderate physical activity approach is thought to be less overwhelming to new exercisers. However, moderate intensity exercise will continue to be effective in lowering blood pressure and improving glucose tolerance.

Research published in the British Medical Journal has shown that even when a step count is minimal, walking an additional 2000 steps per day will assist to lower body mass index and boost insulin sensitivity.

Myth #2: Walking Doesn’t Help With Weight Loss

A gentle stroll is certainly not going to do the work required for weight loss. However, a stroll is still better than lounging around watching soapy dramas from a burning calories point of view. Leslie Sansone, fitness expert and well known for creating Walk at Home Workouts, has the evidence to support her claim: “Walking works for weight loss!”.

In a research study at the University of Virginia, overweight women lost more belly fat over a 12 week period when they did the following combination:

  • Three, 30 minute high intensity walks per week.
  • Two moderately paced walks per week.

When looking at the calories burnt when walking, a second study showed that 20% more calories were burnt by varying the speed of walking compared to maintaining the same pace.

Sansone recommends incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) into your walking program. This means a slow paced 5-minute walk to warm up, then 30-seconds of brisk paced walking. To complete this interval, you do 4-minutes of regular paced walking. The interval is repeated four times. You finish with a 5-minute slow paced walk to cool down.

The HIIT walking program assists you with living a long and healthy life.

Myth #3: Walking is Only For Those Who Can’t Run

For many people new to exercise or for those recovering from an injury, walking is an excellent “gateway exercise”. Once a level of stamina and cardiovascular fitness is achieved, walkers can transition to running.

However, not all walkers want to run — and that is fine.

Garber says, “Walking is a good exercise for everyone”.

A study looking at high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, were shown to be lower in regular walkers compared to runners. This study was published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

Whilst walking around the block is better than no physical activity, the health benefits of walking are maximised when the walking workout is of sufficient time with added intensity levels. Garber suggests using your fitness tracker to focus on duration, distance or calorie expenditure. Remember whether you walk or run it is the amount of exercise that is important to achieve health benefits.

The words of Sansone sums it up beautifully – “If you start fitness walking today, you will instantly feel better and know you’re doing something good for your body, mind and soul.”

Mid-Back Stretch – Cat Stretch

cat-stretchMid -Back – Cat Stretch

  1. Lower into a squat with the hands on the thighs, back arched
  2. Contract your abdominal muscles. (Try to pull your belly button gently toward your spine.)
  3. Slowly round your back, pushing it up toward the ceiling.
  4. Allow your head to drop forward and curl your pelvis under.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in your back.
  6. Return to the starting position.
  7. Raise your head up and let your pelvis fall forward as your belly reaches down toward the floor.
  8. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  9. Repeat about 5 to 10 times.

Lower Body Warm Up – Air Squats

Before heading off on a walk, run or other sporting activity, air squats are useful to warm the lower and upper body.  It is also a useful morning stretch exercise that can be done before rushing out the door to work, or even whilst waiting at  the bus stop.

1) Stand comfortably with your arms by your side and your legs shoulder width apart.

2) As you slowly bend your hips and knees to lower you buttocks toward the floor/ground, raise your arms to shoulder level.  Keep your knees in line with your feet.

3) Allow your spine to be neutral as you squat with your chest lifted.

4) Once your thighs are level with the floor/ground, reverse the motion and return to standing with arms by your side.

5) Repeat 10 to 15 times.