Welsh Physiotherapist urges changing ‘lockdown habits’ as work from home set to continue for many

Rhian Davies with partner, Triathlete Adam Bowden, and her children Rhys and Harri
Welsh physiotherapist and wellbeing Clinic Director Rhian Davies has noticed an increase in urgent back care appointments since lockdown.  She warns that ‘the new normal’ lifestyle could be damaging in other ways, too, and offers tips to help people stay mentally and physically healthy.
We recently re-opened for face to face physiotherapy treatments and it’s been really great seeing clients in person again.  Our team are really excited for our sports masseuse Heidi to rejoin us on Monday.
However, along with getting back to seeing clients in person has come an increase in urgent back care appointments, mostly for injuries arising from the new normal ‘work from home’, where employees who initially enjoyed the fun of working sprawled out on the sofa or floor are now paying the price of several months of working with poor postural support and reduced physical activity.  We’re always happy to help, but don’t enjoy seeing our valued clients in pain and struggling.  It’s a challenging time.
The suggestion that families should leave the house each day to exercise did initially see many people taking up new forms of exercise, like walking and cycling during lockdown, but for many these good intentions wore off and a report reveals that 2/3 of Brits have piled on weight during lockdown, one third of these having gained half a stone or more, and the combination of little exercise, unsupported backs, lack of fresh air and bingeing on unhealthy food is storing up problems for later.  There is also evidence to suggest that working isolated in front of a screen all day and losing contact with ‘the real world’ can have a measurable impact on mental health too.
Dr. Anna Lowe, Programme manager at The National Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine, Sheffield recently said:
“Alongside the immediate rehab needs of people who have had coronavirus, we are likely to see a wider impact on population health as a result of lockdown, in part due to reduced physical activity levels.  There is a risk that physios will be inundated with people who have aches and pains as a result of inactivity and sedentary behaviour. “
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way, nor do you have to drive to an overcrowded beach just to get some fresh air.
If you don’t want to leave your home, you’ll find lots of options to exercise free on One2One’s YouTube Channel and on our Coronavirus Support Page, as well as our low cost online classes – and even more free indoor and outdoor activities can be found with a quick Google search.
There’s so many things to do, so many places you may not have even known existed, just waiting to be explored.  One client recently found a beautiful lake, 5 miles from her home, she never even knew existed before lockdown!  Have a look, you are bound to find at least one place to explore or a new physical activity to enjoy.  If all else fails, a simple daily stroll round the corner in your lunch break can allow you to reconnect with nature and help your mind, body and spirit.
We really care about our clients, but staying healthy also has wider benefits for the community, protecting the NHS.  Staying healthy has never been so important.   Here’s some simple steps you can take to improve your health if you have to work from home for prolonged periods:
1) Get a proper desk and chair that supports your back properly, and if you are talking on the phone a lot get a headset rather than using your shoulder to prop up the phone (ask your employer if they will contribute to the cost – they have a duty to keep you safe at work, many employers have been really supportive once asked)
2) Make sure you take regular screen breaks (the HSE advise taking a short break at least once per hour, so use it to stretch your legs and back rather than reach for the crisps!)
3) Try to leave the house and get some physical exercise at least once per day.  If you were in work, you would take a lunch break, so even if it’s only a 10 minute walk round the block, get your back and joints moving, exercise will strengthen your muscles, support your joints and produce endorphins that naturally relieve pain.  If it hurts, go very gently and only as far as you can and look to go a little bit further each day.
4) Try to do at least one positive physical family activity each week, like going for a walk, playing a game of ball or going on a cycle ride.  Try to schedule some screen-off time too, so maybe play a traditional board game or charades to encourage more interaction with each other – it helps children’s minds and personalities develop.
5) Keep things in perspective.  Small problems can seem big if you are stuck behind a screen all day with little real world contact.  If the stress is getting to you, think about doing a mindful activity, such as mindfulness or a yoga class, or talk to a counsellor.
The last thing to mention is diet.  Rather than grazing on junk food all day, swap your snacks for healthier alternatives and think about creating delicious meals from scratch rather than reaching for the processed nonsense – you will feel more full and snack less.
Lockdown was, for many of us, a novelty, an unusual, rare opportunity to take a break from our normal way of life, and while it was a necessity because of a pandemic, none of us expected it to last as long as it has or to become the new normal – but as normality itself has changed, we now need to change our habits before we damage our health beyond repair.