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13/Aug/2020

I know, I know. We talk about exercise a lot.

But as anyone with a musculoskeletal condition knows, exercise is such an important tool for managing your condition. It keeps your joints moving, it’s vital for bone health, it helps you manage your pain, weight, mood, sleep. It’s practically magic! 😉

However during these weird times, many of us are probably not exercising enough. Our routines are all over the place, we’re working from home/not working/or working strange shifts. There are restrictions (depending on where you live) around going to the gym or the pool, team sports, catching up with friends for exercise or even leaving your home. And because we have to stay at home as much as possible, we’re not getting as much incidental exercise as we once did – such as walking around shopping centres, commuting to work, walking to a colleagues office. That means many of us are more sedentary and becoming unfit and deconditioned. This’s a big problem.

So even though we’re six months into this pandemic in Australia, we need to take stock and be honest with ourselves. Ask yourself – “are you really doing as much exercise as you can?”

Or have you gotten into a routine (I know I have) where it’s easier to stay cooped up indoors, working, watching TV and avoiding exercise outdoors in the cold, wet, COVID-winter? If you answered “no, I’m not doing as much exercise as I could” (like me), what can you do about it?

Steps to becoming more active

  1. The first step was admitting it. Well done!
  2. Now, look at the barriers to exercise. What’s stopping you? This may include things like a lack of time, the weather, being worried about being in public with others, not having access to your usual exercise outlets such as the gym, not feeling motivated.
  3. Once you’ve identified the problem/s, it’s time to do some problem solving. Let’s say the issue you identified is a lack of time. That’s always a tough one. When we have so many things competing for our time and attention, exercise often gets pushed to the bottom of our list of priorities. But it’s important we make it a priority as it has so many benefits for our physical and mental wellbeing. So here are some simple steps to help you come up with some solutions:
    • Identify the problem – done. Don’t have time to exercise.
    • Brainstorm possible solutions and write them down, e.g. exercise in the morning, exercise after work/school, exercise for small periods of time several times a day (e.g. 3 exercise sessions that last 10 minutes each), set reminders on your watch/phone to remind you to get up and move.
    • Choose one and try it. Evaluate how well it works for you. Make sure you give it a solid attempt. Don’t stop after only one try.
    • If it didn’t work out so well, choose another solution and try it.
    • Keep going until you find the solution that works for you.
    • Make it a part of your daily routine.
    • And keep it at the forefront of your mind. Don’t let it slip off the radar again. It may help to write a note on your fridge, bathroom mirror, or the back of the toilet door 😁. Visual clues help us stay motivated.

Motivation

Getting and staying motivated is often a big challenge when it comes to becoming more active. It’s cold, you’re in pain, you miss exercising with your friends, you can’t be bothered – there can be so many reasons why our motivation to exercise disappears. Especially if we haven’t been exercising regularly for a while. Here are some tips to help you if your motivation has gone south for the winter:

  • Remind yourself of the benefits of regular exercise – pain management, improved fitness, joint mobility, muscle strength, better balance, improved sleep and mood, weight management.
  • Add it to your routine. Just like you know you’ll always clean your teeth every morning, make exercise a regular part of your day. It should become that habitual. It may take some time, but if you do it regularly, it will become a habit.
  • Plan to do it when you know you feel the best. If you know you’re generally stiff and sore when you wake up, don’t schedule your exercise routine for the early morning. Schedule it for a time you know you’re feeling loose and limber.
  • Do something you enjoy. You’re more likely to continue to do it if you enjoy it and look forward to it.
  • Exercise with someone – if you have others in your household, include them. They need exercise too! If you live on your own, do some virtual exercise with friends or family. Connect with them over the phone or video and exercise together. Call someone while you both go for a walk – so you not only exercise together, but you get to catch up (just be sure you’re moving at a pace that makes you huff and puff a little – though not so much you can’t speak).
  • Exercise on your own – if you have others in your household, this can be a great way to get some alone time. We’re living in tight quarters at the moment and going a little stir crazy 😜. Scheduling time every day (even if it’s only 10 minutes) will give you time to refresh, breathe and retain your sanity.
  • Make sure you do a variety of exercise – you don’t want to get stuck in a rut. That’s boring and you’re more likely to stop doing something that bores you. Look online at the different exercise videos offering everything from Bollywood dancing, yoga, tai chi, chair exercises and more (see the More to Explore section below for more info. And make sure you read our blog about evaluating online videos for safety and quality.
  • Track what you’re doing. Use a tracking app, a pedometer or a notebook – whatever works – but make sure you track how you’re going over time. Seeing how far you’ve come and how you’ve improved is an amazing feeling. And it motivates you to keep going and challenging yourself 😊.
  • Continue to challenge yourself and increase the intensity of your exercise as your fitness improves. It’ll make your exercise more interesting, and also have greater health benefits.
  • Don’t set yourself up to fail. It’s easy when you’re gung ho and ready to make a change to set unrealistic goals, for example 10,000 steps every day or an hour of aerobic exercise 5 times a week. Or you may attempt to do something you used to be able to do pre-COVID. That may no longer be achievable at the moment, which can be a little disheartening 😥. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, start slow and increase your steps/distance/time gradually.
  • Set goals. Having a clear goal can really motivate you to stay on track with your exercise program. Make sure your goal is SMARTSpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and have a Timeframe. For example, your goal may be to walk a lap around your local park, a distance of 3.5kms. You want to be able to do this without stopping within a month. You plan to do this by walking short distances each day, and going slightly further every day. This goal is specific – it states exactly what the goal is; you can measure it – both time and distance; it’s achievable – as it lists the steps for how it’ll be done; it’s realistic – it gives you a realistic time frame to do it in so they can build up your fitness and endurance; and it has a timeframe. For more info about goal setting read our blog.
  • Make it enjoyable – listen to music, podcasts, audio books when you go for your walk.
  • Reward yourself. Especially if you’ve exercised even though you didn’t feel like it. That’s amazing! You should be proud of yourself. Have a bubble bath. Give yourself a foot massage (or better yet have some else do it). Call a friend just for a chat.

Variety is the spice of life

To get the most out of exercise, you should include a variety of different exercises that help with:

  • flexibility – stretching and range of movement exercises help maintain or improve the flexibility of your joints and nearby muscles. They’ll help keep your joints moving properly and ease joint stiffness.
  • strength – to build muscle strength, provide stability to your joints, improve your bone health and improve your ability to perform daily tasks.
  • overall fitness – exercise that gets you moving and increases your heart rate (e.g. walking, swimming, cycling) will help improve the health of your heart and lungs and can also help with endurance, weight loss, prevention of other health problems (e.g. diabetes). This type of exercise is also called aerobic exercise, cardiovascular exercise or ‘cardio’.

Types of exercise

There are so many ways you can exercise so that you enjoy the benefits listed above. It’s really a matter of finding the things you enjoy doing. So why not try:

  • online exercises – so many gyms and fitness instructors have moved their classes online due to COVID so you’re sure to find some that will appeal to you
  • tai chi, Pilates, yoga – again try online videos/classes, or go ‘old school’ and borrow DVDs from your local library
  • swimming, exercises in water – if you live near the beach, have your own pool or the public pools have reopened
  • ride a bike, scooter, skates, skateboard
  • tennis, cricket, basketball
  • croquet, lawn bowls – you can get all the equipment you need to play these in your own backyard or park
  • active video games – for example WII Fit, Nintendo Switch
  • walk the dog (or cat 😹)
  • skipping rope – by yourself or get the family involved – double Dutch anyone? 😲
  • strength training using free weights and resistance bands
  • dancing/playing air guitar…rock on!

Note: not all of these options will be available for everyone at the moment. It’ll depend on where you live and the current COVID restrictions.

Tips to stay safe

Exercise is really important for good health, but we need to be careful we don’t get hurt or exacerbate an existing condition. Here are some tips to help keep you safe:

  • see your doctor before starting any new exercise program. If you’ve had a joint replaced, find out from your surgeon or health professional which movements you should limit or avoid.
  • talk to a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist – in person or via telehealth – if you need specific help, or want an exercise program tailored to your specific needs and health conditions.
  • don’t exercise a painful, inflamed or hot joint. Instead, gently move the joint through its range of movement to help reduce stiffness and improve circulation.
  • start gently and increase the intensity of your exercise program gradually over weeks or months.
  • always warm up and cool down.
  • pay attention to good technique and try to move smoothly. Don’t force a joint beyond a comfortable range of movement.
  • if you’re short of breath or in pain, ease back on the intensity of your exercise.
  • if your joint feels particularly painful afterwards (for longer than two hours after an exercise session), reduce the intensity of your next exercise session.
  • if an activity causes you pain or increases your pain beyond what’s normal for you, then stop this activity.
  • drink plenty of fluids during and after exercising.
  • wear appropriate clothing and footwear when exercising.
  • practise good COVID habits – wear your mask (if applicable), follow restrictions, maintain physical distancing (at least 1.5 metres), don’t exercise if you’re sick and don’t leave your home if you have tested positive to COVID.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealth or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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30/Jul/2020

Looking after your feet

Our feet are amazing ‘feats’ of engineering (sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one 😁).

Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments. They support us through thick and thin – whether we’re walking, running, jumping, dancing, skipping or hopping. We cram them into ill-fitting shoes, torture them in high heels and stub them against the bedside table in the middle of the night (or is that just me?).

As well as the many injuries and calamities that befall our feet, many musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout can affect the feet.

They’re the unsung heroes of this pandemic as we hit the streets, parks and trails for exercise. Walking has become the exercise of choice for people at the moment. Many of us can’t – or don’t feel safe to – return to gyms or exercises classes. And lots of people are walking instead of catching public transport to avoid being in close contact with others. As a result we’re all walking many more steps than we did pre-COVID.

So we need to stop taking our feet for granted. We need to look after them so we can continue to do the things we want and need to do as pain-free as possible.

So what can we do?

Give your feet the TLC they deserve. It’s really important to look after your feet. Wash and dry them regularly. Inspect them for anything unusual such as cuts, blisters, changes to the nails and skin. By being aware of your feet and any changes that occur, you can seek advice sooner. And if they’re sore after a day of walking, maybe give them a warm soak in the bath, or in a bucket or a foot spa (if you have one) while you watch TV. Then dry them thoroughly and rub a moisturising foot cream into your skin. Take your time and give your feet a nice massage. Better yet, see if you can talk someone else into giving them a massage while you relax on the couch 😉

Manage your condition. If you have a musculoskeletal condition that affects your feet, it’s important that you work with your doctor and healthcare team to look after your feet and manage your condition effectively. The treatments used for foot conditions will vary from person to person, depending on your condition and how it’s affecting you. And this may change over time as your condition and your feet change.

See a podiatrist. If you have foot pain, or a condition that affects your feet, visit a podiatrist. They’re feet experts and can assess, diagnose and treat foot and lower limb problem, including skin and nail problems, foot and ankle injuries, foot complications related to medical conditions and problems with your gait or walking. Podiatrists can also give you advice on appropriate footwear, and can prescribe custom foot orthotics.

Consider orthotics. Orthotics are corrective insoles that can help alleviate pain by redistributing pressure away from the painful area and support your arches. You can buy off-the-shelf orthotics or you can have orthotics made that are specifically fitted to your feet by a podiatrist.

Fit your feet with appropriate footwear. With our worlds turned upside down due to COVID, and many of us having to stay home, it’s tempting to stay in our slippers all day. There’s something so comforting about warm, fluffy slippers 😁. However our feet and ankles need proper support. Wear the right footwear for whatever you’re doing. Going for a walk? Put on your sneakers. Working at home? Wear your casual shoes/boots that support your feet and keep you warm. And lounging around in the evening? Get those slippers on.

If you’re buying new shoes, make sure they fit properly, support your feet and are comfortable. Look for shoes that are light, flexible at the toe joints and are hard wearing. Shoes made of leather are preferable over synthetic materials as they breathe better. Avoid slip-on shoes and if laces are difficult to fasten due to arthritis in your hands, Velcro or elastic laces may be an option.

Let them breathe. Did you know you have about 250,000 sweat glands in each foot? That’s a lot of sweat! So let your feet breathe to avoid smelly feet and fungal infections. Change your socks and shoes at least once a day. Wear shoes that allow air flow around your feet: leather, canvas, and mesh are good options, avoid nylon and plastic. And avoid wearing the same shoes two days in a row. Give your shoes time (at least a day) to dry and air out. And if the weather’s warm, set your feet free and let them go au naturale. There’s nothing better than walking barefoot on warm grass on a sunny day 🙂

Exercise your feet. I’m not talking about walking here…but other exercises that keep your joints moving. Try non-weight-bearing exercises such as swimming, especially if you have foot pain, as they take the pressure away from the painful areas. You can also do exercises while sitting in a chair. NHS Inform (Scotland) has some foot exercise videos you can try. If you want exercises tailored specifically for you, visit a podiatrist or physiotherapist.

Medications might help. If you’re having a lot of foot pain, speak with your doctor about whether medications may be an option. Depending on the underlying condition causing the problem, your doctor may prescribe a short-term course of pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications, or they may prescribe other medications, such as a cortisone injection into a joint for rheumatoid arthritis or medication for acute attacks of gout.

Diabetes and feet. Many people with musculoskeletal conditions also have diabetes. So it’s really important if you have diabetes that you take care of your feet every day because of the increased risk of developing nerve damage, ulcers and infections. Talk with doctor about how to look after your feet properly if you have diabetes.

Surgery may be required. For some people, surgery may be needed if other conservative treatments haven’t helped. A referral to an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in feet is usually required.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealth or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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16/Jul/2020

“Whooooa, and don’t it feel good!”

Gotta love the eighties and music from bands like Katrina and the Waves, right?

And even though there’s only a glimmer of sunshine in Melbourne as I’m writing this and I’m a bit chilly from the quick walk I took round the block, I’m certainly feeling brighter than I did 15 minutes ago! Especially with the tune of that song stuck in my head 😁

While I was out I couldn’t help but notice how many people were also out for a stroll. It seems that everyone’s rediscovered walking during the pandemic.

This is one of the most positive things to have emerged due to COVID. People are pulling on their walking shoes and hitting the paths.

Family groups, deliriously happy dogs with their owners, single people with their headphones on – and everyone doing the COVID smile as you pass by. It’s lovely.

Walking is a great way to exercise. It costs nothing, it’s suitable for most people, and it gets you out and about.

It’s a fantastic way to wind down after a long day of work. It can help you relax, especially if you’re feeling stressed or anxious because of the crazy state of the world. There are so many things we have no control over at the moment, but going for a walk? That’s something we can control.

The fresh air, the exercise, and listening to something interesting – your family, a friend, a podcast or music – it’s a great way to boost your mood.

If you don’t exercise much, walking might be a good way for you to build up your activity levels – though be sure to talk with your doctor first to get the all-clear. Then start slow.

Try walking 30 minutes a day on most days of the week and you’ll really notice the health benefits. It can help you manage your pain, lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it can lift your mood, help you get a good night’s sleep, improve your bone and joint health and increase heart and lung fitness.

If you can’t walk 30 minutes at a time, break the walking up over your day. Three 10 minute walks, six 5 minute walks…it all adds up.

And if 30 minutes most days isn’t achievable for you at the moment, set yourself a goal so that it becomes achievable. Think about your daily commitments, your level of fitness, your pain/fatigue levels and all of the other things that affect you day to day. Now create a SMART goal. That’s a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and has a Time-frame that works for you. Read our blog about goal setting for more info.

Walking tips

  • Wear comfortable, appropriate clothing and shoes. Your shoes should support your feet and have a non-slip sole. Clothes should be loose and/or stretchy enough to allow you to walk without restrictions. And don’t forget a hat on sunny days.
  • Warm up and cool down to prevent injuries or pain. While you might be eager to just get out there or you want to stay ahead of a group of people coming up behind you, it’s important that you take the time to let your muscles and joints warm up. And when you’re close to finishing your walk, take the time to slow it down and give your body the chance to cool down. Don’t forget to incorporate some basic stretches after you’ve warmed up and after you’ve cooled down. Check out these ones from the Arthritis Foundation (USA).
  • Remember to physically distance from other people when you’re out for your walk. Keep at least 1.5 metres between yourself and others. That doesn’t include members of your household 😊.
  • Choose quieter times to walk if you live in a busy, densely populated area. Try walking early in the morning, or in the evening, as long as it’s safe to do so.
  • Avoid the really popular parks and paths. It’s just too hard to maintain that 1.5 metres when you’re surrounded on all sides by people. It can also make your walk less enjoyable if there are crowds of people and lots of noise. Find parks and walking trails that are less crowded, or go at a different time of the day/week.
  • Make it social (if you can) – walk with a friend, your family, kids, the dog.
  • Listen to music, audio books, podcasts. Going for a walk by yourself gives you space for some alone time. Listen to something that interests you and relax as you get some exercise.
  • Make walking a part of your regular routine. Go at the same time each day – e.g. before/after work, after lunch.
  • Don’t go out if you’re sick – stay home and look after yourself. This is especially important if you’re experiencing any COVID symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath. Find out more about COVID symptoms on the Australian Government website.
  • Be mindful while you’re walking. Really take time to be in the moment and experience the walk. How do your feet feel as they connect with the ground? What can you smell? How does the wind feel on your face? This is an opportunity to really connect with what you’re doing and savour every moment.
  • Explore new places. Obviously follow the directions of the health officer in your state/territory, but if you’re able to explore new walking trails, parklands and suburbs, do it. As many of us have discovered during lockdown, walking the same paths day after day can become a little tedious. Mixing it up will make your walks more interesting. Comedian and radio host Tony Martin and his partner have spent more than 10 years exploring the streets of Melbourne, with the goal to walk every single street! While your goal doesn’t need to be this challenging, it may inspire you to pull out the old Melways or use your GPS to discover new and interesting places to walk.
  • Take a water bottle – it can be thirsty work! And depending how far you’re walking, consider taking a small backpack for your water bottle and any other supplies you think may need such as snacks, a map, band aids (just in case) and your phone.
  • Track your walking with a pedometer or fitness activity tracker. This’s a great way to see how you’ve progressed over time. And many of the walking apps allow you to challenge others, so if you can’t physically walk together, you can in spirit.
  • Increase the distance and intensity of your walks over time. To see the health benefits from your walking, you need to push yourself to go further and harder.
  • And if you catch the walking bug (that sounds a little gross but you know what I mean 😋), consider joining a walking or bushwalking group when restrictions ease. You’ll meet other people who love walking, explore new places together and get lots of tips and advice to make your walking more enjoyable and challenging.
  • And last but not least…walk with us! At least in spirit 😊 Our Walk in July is happening as we speak. People of all ‘walks’ of life (sorry for that), ages, conditions and locations are walking virtually whenever and wherever they want to raise awareness of musculoskeletal conditions and to raise funds for Musculoskeletal Australia. Join us and together we can make a difference to the lives of those who need it most!

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but just some of the sites that provide useful info about different walks and trails in Australia.


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02/Jul/2020

We’ve been noticing an increasing number of posts on social media and calls to our Help Line from people with musculoskeletal conditions, autoimmune conditions or with weakened immune systems who are feeling really anxious and vulnerable at the moment.

In the general population there’s a giddy exhilaration about restrictions easing. Unfortunately this seems to have led many people to forget all of the good things they’ve been doing over the past few months to flatten the curve. People are gathering in large numbers and forgetting all about physical distancing and giving others plenty of space.

That’s scary because most of us are still susceptible to the virus. And if you’re more at risk than others, it can make you feel really helpless and exposed.

So what can you do to look after yourself?

Acknowledge your feelings

It’s a crappy, crazy time, so recognise that and allow yourself to feel frightened or anxious, cry, have a freak out, and then move on. Don’t bottle these feelings up or pretend everything’s fine. All of our feelings are valid and important – you don’t have to put on a happy face or turn that frown upside down. You need to acknowledge how you really feel.

However if it feels like these feelings are taking over and they’re all you can focus on, talk to someone – your partner, a trusted family member or friend, your doctor or a mental health specialist.

Talk to your doctor

Make sure you keep your healthcare team up-to-date with how you’re doing – both physically and mentally. Continue to follow your treatment plan as prescribed, and if you have any issues contact your team immediately. If attending health appointments in person feels unsafe, use telehealth if you can. Obviously there are some appointments that will require you to attend in person – for example blood tests and scans – however there are many appointments you can attend from the comfort and security of your own home.

It’s also important that you don’t change or stop your medications without talking to your doctor, regardless of what you may see online or in the news. A recent survey of more than 500 patients attending Monash Health’s Rheumatology Department found that over half were concerned that their medications would increase their risk of getting COVID-19, and more than 75% were concerned that their medications would increase the severity of the disease if they did get it. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about medications and COVID, so if you’re worried, contact your doctor and get their expert advice.

Stay home

If you’re able to stay home, do it. The best way to avoid contact with someone who may have the virus is to stay at home. This is the advice of our health officers, especially if you’re in an area that has outbreaks. And quite frankly it’s so cold in parts of the country at the moment, it feels much better inside than out!

So stay home when you can. Use telehealth to access your health professionals, go online to order your shopping and have it delivered (or have a family member/friend pick it up for you and leave it at your door), stay in touch with your people using video chat and phone calls, use exercise apps or online videos to keep active. Technology allows us to stay connected while staying home.

Work from home if you can

This will help reduce your risk of coming into contact with someone with COVID and other contagious illnesses like the flu. However if you can’t work from home, your workplace is required to have in place safeguards to protect you including physical distancing measures, access to soap and water and/or hand sanitisier, and clean and disinfected work spaces. For more information visit the Safe Work Australia website.

Keep practising good hygiene

This is just something we need to live with from now on. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds), use hand sanitiser when you don’t have access to soap and water, cough or sneeze into your elbow, throw tissues into the bin after use and wash your hands immediately, clean and disinfect your surfaces with soap and water and a disinfectant. It’s important to clean before disinfecting because organic matter and dirt can reduce the ability of disinfectants to kill germs.

Wear a mask

When you do have to venture out, consider wearing a mask, especially if you have to catch public transport or you need to go to a location where physical distancing may be difficult. Read our updated blog about face masks for more info.

Get vaccinated

We’re all being urged to get the flu vaccination this year. This pandemic is overlapping with our flu season and while flu numbers in Australia are low due to our physical distancing measures, this may change. So see your doctor (if you haven’t already) and get your flu vax.

Ask for help

People living with health conditions are tough and resilient. We want to be able to do everything ourselves. However sometimes that’s not an option and we need to ask for help. This can be really hard and can feel like we’re giving away our independence. However this is a global pandemic – so asking for help when you need it is the smart thing to do – especially if it helps you look after your physical and mental health.

Get support from others who understand

There are some great peer support groups who meet online. You can chat with them, share your worries and concerns, get useful info and gain support from people who understand exactly what you’re going through. Being a part of these groups also give you the opportunity to give back and provide support to others.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore


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07/May/2020

Hands up if you’re feeling tired at the moment? Or if you’re too weary to raise your hand, just a brief nod will do it 😉 It seems like we’re a nation of tired people at the moment (😪).

Why is this? We’re not going out like we used to, to the movies, restaurants, family gatherings, to see friends, sports events, or take the kids to all of their extra-curricular activities. We should be swimming in time and feeling relaxed and rested, right?

Ah, no.

We’re stressed

Stop me if you’ve heard this before but we’re going through unprecedented times. This pandemic is causing massive disruptions to our lives, our families, our work and our routines. This constant uncertainty causes us to feel stressed. All the time.

When we’re stressed our bodies release adrenaline. It’s so we can react to a crisis, the old ’fight or flight’ response. But when the stress is constant, as many of us are feeling at the moment, this has an effect on our health – including making us feel physically and mentally tired.

There are lots of things you can do to manage stress. By understanding what’s causing your stress, you can start to manage it. This may include things like developing a new routine (and sticking to it), exercising, talking with your family about how you’re feeling, finding ways to relax, making sure you’re eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water, getting a good night’s sleep and avoiding excessive use of alcohol and other drugs.

We’re staying indoors more

Because of restrictions we’re staying inside our homes more. So we’re not getting exposed to as much sunlight as we normally would. A lack of sunlight causes the brain to produce more of the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy.

To deal with this, schedule time every day to go outside for a walk or stroll in your yard, open your blinds or curtains as soon as you get up and expose yourself to as much sunlight as you can. It’ll help you feel more awake and improve your mood. Just think how much better you feel after being stuck indoors when you get out into the sun. It makes you feel so much more energetic and alive! So this one’s a no brainer. We just have to make time to do it.

We’re sleeping less (or more) than usual

Let’s face it, since this all started our usual everyday routines have been shot to pieces. Work, home life, family, socialising, shopping – it’s all so different at the moment. When you add stress to the mix, our sleep is often affected.

You may find you’re sleeping less than usual because you’re working long hours to catch up on work after spending the day home schooling the kids, or you’re watching more TV and spending more hours online, or stress is causing you to feel more pain and you’re having issues sleeping through the night.

Or you may be sleeping more – trying to rid yourself of this constant feeling of tiredness, or because you’re bored, or because it’s cold outside and you’re feeling cosy and warm indoors, or because you’re feeling sad. Not enough sleep, too much sleep and poor quality sleep will all increase how tired you feel.

That’s why it’s important that you stick to a sleep schedule – even on the weekends. Get out of bed in the morning and go to bed at night, at the same time every day. Your body needs this regularity for your internal clock to function properly, and to help you fall asleep and wake up more easily and feeling more refreshed.

And if you’re regularly finding it difficult to sleep or get out of bed because you’re feeling really sad or down, it’s a really good idea to talk with someone about this, whether it’s family, a close friend or your doctor. Please don’t ignore this.

We’re exercising less

Many of us are finding we’re exercising less because we don’t have access to our warm water exercise classes, tai chi, gyms and exercise groups. Not getting enough exercise can make you feel sluggish and tired. If this continues for some time, we start to get out of shape and feel less inclined to exercise. So it’s really important to make exercise – whether it’s online videos and apps, walking, dusting off your old exercise DVDs, or dancing around the living room – an essential part of your everyday routine. And get the family involved. Everyone needs to be exercising and staying active for our physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re home alone, use a video app to call a friend and exercise together. You’ll find you’ll feel more energised and happier when you’re exercising regularly.

We live with chronic conditions

Apart from all of above affecting how tired we’re feeling, we live with chronic musculoskeletal conditions and other health issues. These often cause us to feel fatigued. Many of our medications and living with chronic pain can also make us feel excessively tired. When you add a pandemic on top of that, the unique issues you’re facing – how the virus may affect you, worry about being more at risk, how to safely access your healthcare team, navigating telehealth – it can heighten you’re feelings of fatigue.

Many of the things we’ve looked at – such as establishing a routine, getting adequate sleep, eating well, exercising and staying connected with your family, friends and work colleagues will help you with some of these issues.

You can also get help from your GP and from the nurses on our Help Line. Contact a peer support group or go online and connect with others dealing with similar things. Even just talking with others who know exactly how you’re feeling can help you feel less isolated.

We may need to talk with our doctor

Finally if you’re concerned that your tiredness is due to more than just the reasons listed above, it might be worth talking with your doctor about it. Your tiredness may be caused by other things like vitamin deficiency (for example iron and vitamin D), side effects of your medications, feeling sad, anxious or depressed or it may indicate another health issue. So make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor – either in person or via a telehealth consultation.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about things like COVID-19, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, telehealthmanaging your pain or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

More to explore

Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash


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08/Apr/2020

Cast your mind back just a few short months when the thought of hanging out at home with no obligations would’ve been a wonderful dream. Relaxing, feet up on the couch, a cheeky afternoon nap…ah, the serenity. Now that we have to stay at home, we’re all finding it a little harder than we thought it would be to stay sane and entertained.

So our team have come up with a bunch of things you can do at home this Easter long weekend, and into the coming months. Apologies (sorry, not sorry) this is another long one!

Play – with your kids, pets, partner. Now’s the perfect time to let your inner child loose, play and have fun! Rediscover chasey (the dogs love that one), play hide and seek, build a blanket fort in your lounge, play footy in the backyard, play SH Health’s Easter Bingo, take part in the wheely bin challenge. 

Learn – about the world, a new skill, language, art, culture, history, society. There are so many organisations providing online learning courses, and many of them are free. Just search online using your favourite search engine, and explore what’s available. Also check out Laneway Learning, MOOCs (massive open online courses), TAFEs and colleges, community houses. You’ll come out of this pandemic with so much knowledge you’ll wow everyone at your next trivia night 🤣.

Read – OK complete disclosure here – I’m a librarian, so I love reading and want everyone to enjoy reading too 😊. Now is a great time to read that book you’ve always wanted to, or the one your friends have been going on about. You can read so many books online, or you can you can listen to audio books. Some are free, others you’ll have to pay for. Or go through the pile of books and magazines you have at home. Reread your favourites, share them with your family, create a bookclub and discuss what you loved. And don’t forget to check out your local library to access eBooks and audio books.

Travel – one of our MSK Kids families is travelling the world by having different themed dinners and dressing up. So far they’ve been to India, Malaysia, USA, Thailand 💚. You can travel online and visit cultural and historical collections around the world, zoos and galleries, explore travel blogs, watch documentaries. It’s amazing how much of the world you can experience from home.

Worship – we’re entering an important period of celebration and significance for many faiths. But we can’t gather at our churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship with our family and friends. The good news is that a lot of them are going online. Contact your place of worship or search online to see what events are being streamed and when. Gather with your extended family and friends virtually after worship to celebrate together. It’s going to be different, and it’ll be challenging for many of us, but we can still celebrate the things that are important to us.

Create – draw, sing, paint, write, dance. Take a tip from The Sound of Music and put on a concert or puppet show. All you need to start is an idea. Then go online to see what you need (if anything) and how to move your creation forward. And don’t forget to check out Pinterest. Wow, that’s an amazing rabbit hole you’ll fall into for hours!

Donate – blood, plasma, goods, money…whatever you have to offer. As far blood and plasma go Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is still open and are a VERY essential service. So if you’ve never donated blood and/or plasma, and you’re healthy and well, they could really use yours right now. And if it’s been a while since you’ve donated, it’s time to head back there. Check out their website for more info to see if you’re eligible.

Play some more
– do a jigsaw, create a Lego masterpiece, play board games. You can do many of these things online or using an app, or brush off the games you have at the top of the cupboard in your spare room. Challenge your friends to online games like Words with Friends (if you’re a nanna like me) or some very cool multiplayer games like Fortnite. Stay connected with your friends or meet new people online and have a great time!

Connect – call your parents, your aunt, your brother, your friend from high school. Or reach out via social media. Everyone’s isolated so let’s lessen that by staying connected with the people we love, and reconnect with those we’ve lost track of.

Organise – your cupboards, garage, the weird space under the house, your finances. Wherever you have mess or chaos, what better time than now to get these things in order?

Clean – on a similar note, clean. Clean out the old things you don’t need, want or use, Save them for when you can go to the op shop and donate them. Or prepare your online ads for when you can go back to selling online*. And once you’ve sorted through this stuff, physically clean your space. Give everything a good dose of elbow grease.
*Note – we’re working under the assumption that selling your goods is not an essential reason for leaving your home (e.g. to post something or for someone to visit your house to collect something.

Camp –it’s a much loved tradition in Australia for the Easter long weekend. You can still do it, just camp in your backyard or in the lounge.

Review – your insurance, your Will, finances, energy providers and telecommunications providers. Not nearly as fun as camping 😁 but it’s important, and we never seem to have time for this kind of stuff. Until now.

Cook – we have endless online resources to help us create the perfect meal, try a new recipe, bake a cake or make chocolate crackles. Get the kids involved, make a delicious mess and have fun!

Listen – to each other, audio books, podcasts, music. Take time to really immerse yourself in whatever it is you’re listening to.

Write – a book, blog, journal, your family history. Whatever takes your fancy. Sit in front of the computer or grab a notepad and pen (or quill if you’re feeling fancy) and just get it all out. I find the best way to get started is to just do it…throw words down, have a brain dump, then reread it and edit after you’ve written something. Don’t tie yourself up in knots reading as you’re writing. You can edit when you take a break from the creative process.

Research – your family history, a place for your next holiday, info about your health condition, life, the universe and everything. By now you may have guessed that there are a lot of resources online. Try the state and national libraries, archives, commercial ancestry websites, travels sites, our website, museum websites. There’s so much information out there. The world really is your oyster when you have the time and inclination to do some online searching and exploring.

Garden – create a new garden, resurrect an old one, plant some pots, mow the lawn. Whatever you enjoy and gets you outside and into the fresh air. Then sit back and admire your handiwork. It’s such a satisfying feeling!

Meditate – with all the online stuff we’ve been suggesting, as well as all the noise of the constant media, work, school and everyone living in tight quarters at home, it can be overwhelming, exhausting and LOUD! So take some time out to be quiet. Why not try some mindfulness meditation? Or just sit quietly in your yard? Get the rest of the household involved, and make it a part of your new routine. Your mental health will thank you for these moments of stillness and reflection.

Exercise – well der. Clearly that’s a no-brainer, but it has to be included in our list. And exercise is one of the magical reasons you’re allowed to leave your home at the moment. But it does have to be in compliance with the restrictions in place in Australia, and any further restrictions in your state or territory.

Volunteer – there are many charities, community groups, schools and other organisations that depend on volunteers. And a lot of their volunteer work can be done from home. Check out what’s available by visiting the Volunteering Australia website, or contacting your school, sporting clubs and other local groups.

With all that we’ve offered here, and really it’s just the tip of the iceberg, we hope we’ve inspired you with some interesting, fun, challenging, thought-provoking things to do while in iso.

Have fun, stay safe, stay home and take care of each other.


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19/Mar/2020

Didn’t think we’d ever be writing those words!

Update – 28 April 2020. This blog has been updated in line with the new restrictions on gatherings and physical distancing, and to include a video from Dr Adam Castricum Sport and Exercise Physician on the importance of being physically active during isolation.

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on our worlds – our health, travel, work, finances, schooling, family life, and all the little freedoms we once took for granted. Isolation has seen our physical world become much smaller.

While we struggle with all of these things, an important area when it comes to our health that many of us are finding difficult to wrap our heads and bodies around is getting enough exercise.

If you live with a musculoskeletal condition like arthritis, back pain or osteoporosis you know how important exercise and being active is. It helps us manage our condition, our pain, our weight, and our mental health. It also helps us sleep better and gives us the opportunity to socialise with others.

However not being able to attend our classes, fitness centres and sporting clubs means we need to look at alternative ways to exercise.

Here’s a few ideas to help you stay active during the pandemic:

  • Schedule time for it. Our lives have turned upside down, so having a regular routine, including time for exercise is really important, for both our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing.
  • Exercise with others. Grab your family and go for a bike ride, walk around the park, shoot hoops in the driveway, play leapfrog on the lawn. Or connect with friends via video apps and exercise together. Along with having a regular time for exercise, having an exercise buddy – whether in person or online – will help keep you motivated and accountable.
  • Get outside and go for a walk, jog or run. It’s still a great way to stay active. If you’re doing it with a friend, make sure you’re abiding by the latest restrictions regarding gatherings and physical distancing. And don’t forget – COVID-19 doesn’t spread to our dogs, so take them for a walk. They’ll love it! And avoid walking, jogging or running in busy areas, or during busy times.
  • Use an old fashioned DVD and exercise in front of your TV. Or stream an exercise program online. Or use an exercise app. There are so many to choose from. Just make sure that the exercises are performed by people who know what they’re doing.
  • Dance around the house. Get the blood pumping with some of your favourite, high energy music, and shake it off!
  • Walk/run/skip around your home and yard – use the space you have available. At the beginning of the Chinese lockdown there was news of a man who ran a marathon in his own apartment! While you don’t have to go to that extreme, it highlights that you can do all kinds of things in small spaces if you’re a little creative 😊
  • If you have a WII Fit, or any of the electronic karaoke/guitar/music games that plug into your TV, set it up and go for it. Sing, dance and game to your hearts content. If you don’t have any of the electronics, just do some air guitar or air drumming. We’ve all done it, and it’s so much fun.
  • Get creative! One of our families has told us about how they’re blowing up balloons and using them as balls. For example, keeping them off the ground while they sit on opposite sides of the table, hitting balloons with fly swats and other improvised rackets for a game of tennis. We can be very creative when we need to be – let your inner exercise guru loose!
  • Use what you have around the house. You may already have exercise balls/bands and weights to use, or you can improvise with cans of soup for weights, steps ups on your stairs etc.
  • Incorporate incidental exercise. Check out our blog on how the little bits and pieces you do over the course of your day – for example cleaning, talking on the phone – can be made more active and really add up.
  • Go for a ride. Use an indoor stationary bike, or hit the streets or park on your bicycle.
  • Consider hiring or buying (new or second hand) exercise equipment such as a treadmill, exercise bike or cross-trainer. You can use the equipment to add variety to your exercise program, and it’ll also come in handy for those days it’s too wet or cold to venture outdoors.

There are lots of things you can do to remain active during this pandemic, and stay safe. These are just some of them. For more information, visit our website or call our MSK Help line weekdays on 1800 263 265. Or email helpline@msk.org.au.

More to explore


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22/Jul/2018

Tips for getting back on your bike

The Tour de France is on again. And there’s nothing like watching great athletes race through the French countryside – past beautiful chateaus, idyllic villages and madly cheering fans. If you’re like me, it’s enough to make you drag your bike out of the shed, dust the cobwebs off and hit the road. Literally.

One spin around my small suburban street and I crashed.

It seems my ability to ride a bike, like most things you don’t do on a regular basis, has disappeared. Along with my ability to roller skate, climb trees and bounce out of bed fresh as a daisy after a late night out.

But the saying “it’s as easy as riding a bike” must exist for a reason, right? So I persevered, and while I’m still a little wobbly, and hills are a challenge, I’m doing it!

So here are my tips for getting back on your bike after years away.

  1. Get a bike – obviously tip number 1 for riding a bike is to get one.
    • If you’re buying a new bike, get advice from people you know who ride regularly. Find a good bike shop and talk with the staff. Check out the Choice guide to help you know what to look for.
    • Borrow a bike from a friend or neighbour. That way you can give cycling a go before you spend any money on a new bike.
    • If you already have a bike, go over it to make sure it’s in good condition. If you’re not sure what you need to do, enrol in a basic bike maintenance course. Just Google it, and you’ll find places that run these courses in your area.
  2. Make sure your bike is fitted with all the necessary bits and pieces you’ll need. Much of this will depend where/when you plan to ride, so seek advice from other cyclists or from the bike shop. But some of the things you may need include: comfortable seat, light, bell, basket/rack, water holder, lock, pump.
  3. Find the perfect outfit for you – this doesn’t need to expensive, but does need to be comfortable, brightly coloured so others can see you, made out of fabric that breathes, and if you’re riding at night or when it’s getting dark, reflective. Oh, and padding in bike shorts can help protect you from some unpleasant pain in sensitive areas! You’ll also need a good helmet that fits you properly. Remember it’s compulsory in Australia to wear an approved helmet when riding a bike.
  4. Where to ride – this is an important one. You’re more likely to ride more regularly if you feel safe and you’re in a pleasant environment. So depending on where you live, riding around your local streets may not be the best option. Taking your bike to a park or local bike trails may be the best way for you to build your confidence. Make sure the paths are easy to navigate, wide enough for you and others to get by, not too steep (at least while you’re relearning to ride) and have places where you can stop for a breather, have a drink and enjoy the surrounds.
  5. Grab the family and friends – exercising is often more fun when you do it with others. And riding a bike is a great activity for people of all ages and levels of fitness.
  6. Start small. It’s easy to get swept up in the ride – the nature around you, the hypnotic effect of turning the wheels around and around, the wind in your face – and then you realise you have to cycle back to where you started. So be aware of the distance you travel. Starting small also gives you the time and space to relearn riding your bike – how the brakes work, the gears, steering, not crashing!
  7. Drink water. You’re exercising, so you’ll be sweating and losing fluid. Take regular breaks to rehydrate.
  8. Check out the networks – both formal e.g. Bicycle Network and local, informal cycling groups. You’ll get information, support and advice, and you’ll meet new people.
  9. Enjoy yourself! Cycling is a really enjoyable activity – so get out there, check out the countryside and have fun.

More to explore

  • Your local council website for cycling groups, paths and other resources
  • Your state/territory government parks websites for information on riding safely in parks, maps and much more.

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26/May/2018

And that’s just what they’ll do

Walking is a great way to exercise. It costs nothing, it’s suitable for most people, and it gets you out and about.

I love walking. I take a quick walk around the block during the day if I can manage it, but I always make sure I get out after I get home from work. I find it’s a fantastic way to relax after a long day at work.

For me the important thing is to get changed and put my walking shoes on as soon as I get home. If I sit down, or get distracted by others, the opportunity disappears.

I grab my MP3 player, put on a podcast or music, and head out. The fresh air, the exercise, and listening to something interesting is a great mood booster.

On the weekend I like to explore new areas, so I hop in the car, pick up a friend, and we walk in a park, the bush, in the CBD, at the beach. This keeps my walks interesting, and I also have the benefit of discovering new places.

If you don’t exercise much, walking might be a good way for you to build up your activity levels – though be sure to talk with your doctor first to get the all-clear. Then start slow.

Try walking 30 minutes a day on most days of the week and you’ll really notice the health benefits. It can help you lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight, it can lift your mood, help you get a good night’s sleep, improve your bone and joint health and increase heart and lung fitness.

If you can’t walk 30 minutes at a time, break the walking up over your day. Three 10 minute walks, six 5 minute walks…it all adds up.

Walking tips

  • Wear comfortable, appropriate clothing and shoes.
  • Warm up and cool down to prevent injuries or pain.
  • Make it social – walk with a friend, your family, kids, the dog.
  • Listen to music, audio books, podcasts.
  • Make it a part of your regular routine – go at the same time each day – e.g. after/before work, after lunch.
  • Explore new places to walk.
  • Take a water bottle – it can be thirsty work!
  • Track your walking with a pedometer or fitness activity tracker.
  • Increase the distance of your walks and intensity of your walks over time.
  • Take your walk inside if it’s raining or a hot day – walk in a shopping centre, around the office, around your house.
  • Join a walking or bushwalking group.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your walking shoes and get out there!


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25/Sep/2017

There’s nothing like this time of the year. It’s getting lighter and brighter. The weather is warming up and you can almost smell spring in the air! You just want to get out and about.

If your exercise routine has been hibernating over winter, spring is the perfect time to brush it off, get back into the swing of things, and get moving. It’s also a great time to add something new to your exercise regime.

Take a hike – walking is a great exercise that’s suitable for most people. You can adapt it to your specific needs and interests – e.g. a walk through your neighbourhood, Nordic walking (using special poles and technique that work your upper body), or walking in the bush and enjoying the smells and sights around you. If you find it difficult to find time to exercise, try breaking your walks up into smaller increments. If you can start with a 10 minute walk a few times during the day, it all adds up, and before you know it you’ve done 30 minutes of walking by the end of your day! Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes for walking.

Makes some waves in the water – water exercise is a gentle, soothing form of exercise. The water supports your body and the resistance provided by moving through water boosts muscle strength and endurance. The types of water exercise you can choose include: hydrotherapy (offered by physios as one-on-one sessions for individuals or in small groups), gentle water exercise classes at your local fitness or recreation centres or swimming laps at your local pool.

Try tai chi – it’s a low-impact, slow-motion exercise, with gentle movements. When doing tai chi, your muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, and your joints are not fully extended or bent. You can learn tai chi from books and DVDs, however most people find it easier to learn from a qualified instructor. Books and DVDs are useful to help you practise between classes.

Hit the dance floor – dancing is a fun, social form of exercise. It’s also a great way to meet new people. There are so many different styles of dancing you can try, from Latin to hip hop to ballroom to belly dancing to just shaking it all about your lounge room when a great song comes on the radio! Make sure you’re wearing shoes that are appropriate for the style of dancing you’re doing, start slowly, learn good technique and have a wonderful time!

Get on your bike – and get your blood pumping. Riding a bike can give you a good cardio workout, which’ll help improve the health of your heart and lungs (cardiovascular system). Cycling can also help improve your stamina, manage your weight and reduce your risk of developing other health problems (e.g. diabetes).

Practise Pilates – the slow, controlled movements of Pilates can help you improve your flexibility and strength. Ensure you see a qualified instructor who can teach you how to perform each exercise correctly and safely.

The important thing when you’re looking to start exercising or reinvigorate an exercise program is to find something you enjoy doing. You’re more likely to continue doing it, and reap all the health and social benefits that come from regular exercise. Exercise with your friends, join a team and just get out and move. And don’t forget to keep your doctor informed about what you’re doing.




Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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