Keeping healthy in this weird new reality


CHAIR DANCING There are many ways to get the heart pumping at home, and many of them can be fun.


Andrew O'Brien

We were supposed to be in Thailand this week. My mum had a significant birthday not so long ago, and her wish was that we could all meet somewhere for a family holiday. Thailand is roughly halfway between the rest of my family in Australia and Westport and it’s supposed to be lovely at this time of year. I don’t need to tell you why that didn’t go ahead.
The simple life of holiday time is magical. Part of that magic is the absence of pressure, of feeling like you need to be somewhere. The rollercoaster of school pick-ups, football training, music lessons and gym sessions are all a distant memory and we wonder why we put ourselves through it. We resolve that when we get home, it will all be different; that we’ll lead a simpler life.
If the warning to be careful what you wish for ever rang true, it is now. We’ve all had a much simpler life forced upon us by circumstances beyond our control. Never did so many people miss the mundane rituals of daily life. Things we complained about would now be a welcome reprieve. Our simple pleasures are gone too; no catch-ups over coffee, dinners out or trips to the beach. Holidays abroad? Forget it.
How are you coping? I find myself drifting between anger and acceptance with a bit of fear and frustration thrown in. I’m not a psychologist or a psychotherapist, but fear of the unknown and frustration at not being able to do more – or anything – must be pretty universal at present. (Have a read of Jannah Walshe’s article below for some useful advice in that regard.)
It’s an interesting time to be a physio. Face-to-face consultations are out, so plenty of us are working online. Initially that seems strange, but it makes sense. Most of a patient’s recovery should be self-driven, and advice from afar may even promote more independence than a hands-on treatment session. A person rebuilds their own self, rather than relying on a therapist to fix them. It’s also easier to devise a programme that can be done in the spare room if I can see just how much space you have.
Lockdown looseners
Exercise is the main component of any physiotherapy programme, and it remains that way now. There are specific exercises for specific problems, of course, but there are also some that can be done by almost everyone every day.
To loosen your back, lie face up with your knees bent and roll the knees from side-to-side, like windscreen wipers, for a minute. Then pull one knee into your chest and hold it for 20 seconds before switching sides and repeating three or four times times. Standing with your hands on your hips and arching backwards a few times like an old man getting out of the car seems too easy to work, but it does. If it didn’t, the old men would have stopped doing it when they were young men.

Simple strengtheners
Now that you’re a bit looser, it’s time to get a bit stronger. Push-ups cause more dread than global pandemics, but they needn’t. Instead of starting from the floor, try putting your hands on the edge of the kitchen worktop and doing your push ups there. Having less weight to lift will mean you can do more repetitions. When that is easier, use the arm of the couch or the foot of your bed- anything closer to the floor that makes you work a bit harder.
Squats are possibly the simplest exercise you will ever do, and have countless variations. The simplest is to stand with your feet at shoulder width and bend your knees. How far down you go should be dictated by your balance and mobility, for most people a 90-degree bend is about the limit. If your balance isn’t great, rest your hands on the back of a chair for stability. You can get creative by adding weight in the form of a backpack, doing lunges, or stepping up or down off a step.

Heart helpers
Once mobility and strength are done, it’s time to move onto the cardiovascular fitness, and here you are limited only by your imagination. Walking, jogging or cycling in your 2km radius, garden or even hallway are the easiest places to start.
Jumping jacks, skipping or dancing will get the heart rate up just as quickly and offer some variety. If you have kids, playing football or tag in the garden might cheer everyone up.
Maybe that’s the best we can hope for at the moment, something simple to cheer us up. And a holiday when this is all over.

Andrew O’Brien is a chartered physiotherapist and the owner of Wannarun Physiotherapy and Running Clinic at Westport Leisure Park. He can be contacted on 083 1593200 or at