With Christmas fast approaching it’s time take a few moments to think about how we are going to use our body in the coming weeks… and how we can look after it going into the new year.
Did you know that back problems become more common over the festive season? You can push all of your physical and emotional boundaries with a range of intensive behaviours from shopping, feeling stressed to compulsive playing of new computer games or sitting glued to the television for hours at a time.
Here are our top tips for taking care of yourself this Christmas:
When out shopping:
- Take lots of bags, half fill them and balance the weight of shopping bags evenly in each had.
- Use a shopping trolley, but be aware if it is the large one as you will be bending over to place the food in it and bending over again to get it out!
- If standing in a queue try to stand with your weight evenly balanced on both legs. Alternatively you can try shifting your weight from foot to foot.
- Walk with you stomach in and hips tucked slightly under – use natural strides, allowing each foot to roll from hell to toe in a fluid motion.
- Where sensible, flat, supportive shoes.
- Do several small trips rather than one major over-loaded trip.
- Ask a shop assistant to help you carry those heavy or awkward items.
- Pack heavier items at the front of the boot of the car. This means that you are not reaching over too far when placing them in or getting them out.
- Place frozen and fridge items together on the back seat of the car. This way you can take them out first. Then, you can have a break before getting the rest of the shopping.
- Always lift using your knees and not your back.
Sit at a table rather than standing and bending over or kneeling on the floor. This will protect your back, knees, neck, shoulders and upper back. Consider wrapping in batches – you don’t need to do it all in one go!
Decorating the house:
- Use a sturdy stool or ladder for reaching those higher places, be it indoors or out.
- Get someone to help you lift the Christmas tree – it might not be heavy, but they are an awkward shape and we can easily become unbalanced and pull a muscle.
- If it should snow or be icy – make sure you wrap up warm and wear appropriate footwear.
- If we should get snow – shovel and bend from the knees, not the waist.
- Take your time, and leave plenty of time getting from A to B.
- Whether it’s watching TV or gaming and using electronic gadgets for prolonged periods, your back and neck may become casualties. This could lead to pain and discomfort and loss in range of movement.
- Make sure you take regular breaks, getting up to move around and stretch.
- Ensure you chair has good support, is the correct size and that your posture is balanced – e.g. not legs tucked under, not sitting twisted to watch the TV.
- Take the whole family and go for a walk every day.
- Give family and friends Christmas presents that will prompt them to be more active.
- If driving long distances in the car to see friends or family try to take breaks every hour. Either stretch your legs at a service station or have a walk around the petrol station.
Cooking the Christmas dinner:
- Do as much preparation the night or even day(s) before.
- Sit to peel the vegetables.
- Bend using your knees when getting the Turkey in and out of the oven – ask someone to help you if needed.
- Get family and friends to bring dishes so you don’t have to do all the work.
Look after yourself!
Top tips to boost your physical and emotional health:
- Get outside every day – go for a walk, spend time in the garden, sit outside in the fresh air and sunlight. Make sure you are dressed appropriately to keep warm and dry. Doing this encourages circulation and helps prevent stiffness and soreness as well as encouraging the body to keep itself warm. Just being outside in natural light does great things for you happy hormones, boosting your mood, self-confidence and sense of connectedness.
- Drink up – keep hydrated as this will help you feel sharper, aid digestion and can was joint pain, inflammation and swelling. Watch what you drink, as hot drinks with caffeine in can lead to headaches, insomnia and they act as mild diuretic.
- Eat fresh – eating fresh, natural foods is a wonderful health boost at any time of the year, but is particularly beneficial over Christmas, when there are so many sweet, sugary, man-made temptations to be had. Try to ensure that you eat a least one freshly cooked meal a day with at least three portions of vegetables. Eat the rainbow – the brighter and more varied the colours of fruit and veg – yellow, greens, purples and reds – the more loaded they are with antioxidants, great for your immune system, skin, eye and organ function.
- Stay flexible – People of all ages are prone to sit around longer than usual during the festive period. Here are a couple of simple stretches you can do daily:
- Full body standing stretch: stand up and reach your arms overhead, stretching your body from fingertips to toes. Enjoy the feeling of lengthening your body and loosening up any stiffness.
- Forward bend: from the standing position, reach forward and downwards, moving your hands towards your toes. Don’t worry if you can’t reach your toes. The aim is to move within your body’s natural range, easing out the back and legs.
- Seated twist: sit upright and twist your shoulders and torso to one side. Hold it for a few seconds, then twist to the opposite side. Feel the relaxing stretch through your spine.
- Improve your balance – to keep your limbs flexible and strong, try balancing on each foot for as long as possible every morning. You don’t have to lift your foot high off the ground and make sure that you have something to hold onto if you think you may not be very safe. Doing this will help to strengthen your leg muscles and improve their ability to sense movement, boosting you ability and reducing your risk of falls as you get older.
- Keep your friends close – friends provide emotional support, helping you deal with stress, boosting the body’s production of feel good chemicals.
- Sleep more – going to bed just one hour earlier can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Winter is also a time of hibernation, at time rest, restore and renew so take advantage of the long night by getting more sleep.