Whether you’re headed interstate, or are staying close to home these holidays, it’s inevitable for our normal exercise routines to get disrupted with all the fun and chaos that the Christmas period brings.
While we love the opportunity for some rest and relaxation, when you’ve been working hard on your fitness throughout the year, it can be hard not to worry about falling off the bandwagon and going backwards.
The good news is that effective health-promoting exercise doesn’t need to involve long gym sessions, distance running or HIIT workouts. Here are four simple, practical and easy-to-implement tips to help you stay active and maintain a healthy balance over the holidays – regardless of where you are.
One: Embrace Your Environment
Small, low-impact activities, from going on a walk with friends to swimming at the beach to challenging the family to a round of backyard cricket, make a significant contribution to your fitness – and they’re fun! Instead of going out of your way to exercise, embrace the easy opportunities around you.
Research has found that walking is great for developing and sustaining physical fitness. It only takes 30 minutes of ‘brisk’ walking, meaning that you can still talk but not sing and you may be puffing slightly, done most days of the week to produce results such as:
- Increased bone and muscle strength
- Improved endurance and cardiovascular fitness
- Reduced joint and muscle pain
- Reduced body fat
- Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
If you’re up for a bigger challenge, check out your local hiking trails. Studies have shown that people that spend at least 120 minutes per week in nature, like our beautiful Australian bushland, have consistently higher levels of both health and well-being that those that don’t. Other immediate benefits of hiking include decreased blood pressure and stress levels, enhanced immune system functioning, and restored attention.
If you’re at the beach or the pool, swimming is a great cardio-boosting activity that can be done by almost anyone, regardless of any pains or injuries, due to the buoyancy effects of water. When you’re waist-deep around your navel, you only carry 50-55% of your body weight. Standing chest-deep at your nipple line, you carry up to 25% of your bodyweight. At your neck-depth, you’re left taking on as little as 6-9% of your body weight, depending on whether you’re inhaling or exhaling.
Swimming keeps your heart rate up, helps build endurance, supports cardiovascular health, and provides a full body workout. Swimming has also been shown to alleviate stress and tension, with the repetition helping you to relax and block out other distractions.
Two: Break Up Long Journeys
Long journeys in planes or cars can take a toll on your muscles and joints. If you’re driving, it’s recommended that you stop approximately every two hours to stretch your legs for five minutes. If you’re on a plane, walk up and down the aisle and stretch if possible every hour. Stretching helps relieve muscle tension and improve posture, maximising blood flow, oxygen levels and the delivery of nutrients to the muscles around your body.
Here are two easy stretches you can do during long journeys. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and never stretch to the point of pain.
Elevated Forward Bend
- Grab a surface approximately the height of your hips
- Take two steps back, bending over at your hips, so you’re looking at the ground
- Gently pull back until you feel a stretch in your low back. The more you lean back, the more you will feel the stretch
- Place your forearm with your elbow bent on a surface such as a doorway, edge of a wall, or pole
- Adjust your shoulder so it is at an angle ranging from 90 to 120 degrees
- Stagger your legs into a lunge and rotate your body away from where your arm is placed. You will feel a gentle pull in your chest
- Swap to the other side
Three: Be A Local & Try Something New
Wherever you are, trying new activities in your area can be a great way to stay motivated and active. Aside from the physical health benefits of a new exercise-related activity, research has shown that the brain expands in volume when you’re learning a new skill, in the areas related to what you’re doing. The impact of physical health on the brain, including increased perfusion, increased volume of the hippocampus and the anti-inflammatory effects of physical activity are also suggested to explain why your mental health may improve when engaging in exercise.
If you’re looking for new activities to embrace, we recommend trying stand up paddleboarding (SUP’ing) or Pilates. Hiring SUP’s is now offered at a wide range of beaches across Australia and the activity is associated with increased balance, core strength and overall fitness, while Pilates is shown to have additional mental health benefits via encouraging other health-promoting behaviours, reinforcing positive beliefs about a person’s health status and creating a positive feedback cycle.
Four: Seek Advice if You’re Concerned
Finally, an easy, proven way to help you stay active these holidays is by not letting pain and injury stop you in your tracks – always seek advice if you’re concerned.
Here at Allsports Physio, we have clinics across Australia with our extensive physio team, open throughout the summer break. We’ll assess exactly what has happened, understand why, and create a unique treatment plan aimed at helping you achieve your summer fitness goals and let you exercise – or rest – on your own terms.