Top 5 Physical Therapy Exercises for the Holiday Season!


The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year, but it can also bring lots of stress to your mind and body.  We asked Michael Oakes, PT, DPT at Symbio Physical Therapy to give us some great tips to help you stay strong, injury free, and ready for anything during the holidays.  His tips will also help you keep coming to class with us to celebrate and let off steam.

The Symbio team is amazing! They are smart and caring professionals who look at the body in a wholistic and functional way. We are excited to connect with them and recommend them highly to all of our clients.  Check them out and tell them we sent you. And enjoy Michael’s tips for a better season ahead!!

~ Mahri


1)  Deep Core Activation

The goal of this exercise is to help target and activate the transversus abdominis, the deepest part of your abdominal muscles. No, training this muscle won’t give you 6-pack abs, but having a properly functioning transversus abdominis will go a long way in helping to stabilize and protect your spine!

body conceptions by mahri

Deep Core Activation

– Start on your back, preferably on a firm surface.

– Initiate the posterior pelvic tilt by gently drawing your belly button in towards your spine. You should feel the small of your back come into contact with the surface that you are on. Hold this contraction!

– Bring both knees towards your chest so that they are at a right angle with the ground. Slowly, maintaining good control, lower one leg and gently tap your heel on the surface.

– Return to starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.

– Remember to hold the posterior pelvic tilt throughout the entire exercise. This ensures that we’re targeting the right muscle!

2) Proper Posture

Poor posture- the bane of every office worker in the world- is one of the most common causes of pain and discomfort today. Given how much time we spend sitting in front of a computer screen or looking at our phones, this should come as no real surprise. What might surprise you though is that poor posture itself isn’t technically the main problem. The real problem is when we lose the ability to correct ourselves and begin doing our everyday tasks in this position. We lose movement variability and use the same strategy for a wide range of tasks, which ultimately leads to tissue breakdown and pain. Remember: proper posture prevents pain!

body conceptions by mahri

Proper Posture

– Imagine your head floating up towards the ceiling, thinking of growing tall, as you allow your neck and spine to elongate. You should feel both your head and your upper back straightening.

– Next, bring your shoulders up, back and down.

– Finally, perform a gentle posterior pelvic tilt by drawing your belly button in towards your spine.

– Try performing this exercise once every hour and hold for 2 minutes. Think of this as a “reset” exercise.

3) Hip Strengthening

It’s holiday season, which means lots of amazing food and lots of great company. It also means that you don’t have a lot of time to lose those 10 pounds you said you would back in January! For those of you who’re planning to hit the gym to burn off the extra calories the holiday season brings, keep this hip strengthening exercise in mind. Strong hips provide a firm foundation to help you hit those cardio machines harder, safer, and more efficiently.

body conceptions by mahri

Hip Strengthening

– Start by balancing on one leg (it’s tougher than you think!). Make sure your pelvis stays level and that your trunk stays relatively square.

– Drive the opposite leg up so that your knee and your hip are at the same height. Pause for 2 seconds.

– Extend the same leg back as you lean forward and reach out with your other hand. Try to keep your arm, trunk, and leg all in the same line as best as you can.

– Return to starting position and repeat.

4) Upper Trapezius Stretching

The upper trapezius is a muscle that is located between the shoulder and the base of the neck and, as I’m sure many of you already know, always seems to be tight! For some, dysfunction in this area is more serious and is a source of intense pain that interferes with everyday activities and may even cause severe headaches. Here’s a simple stretch that may alleviate some of the tension you might be feeling in that area. Remember that with any stretch, low-load, prolonged holds have been shown to be the most effective. Think gentle stretches and longer than 30 seconds.

body conceptions by mahri

Upper Trapezius Stretching

– Place one hand underneath your thigh.

– Place the other hand on your head and gently sidebend your neck away from the hand that is under your thigh. Keep going until you feel a comfortable stretch on that side of your neck.

– In this position, slowly flex your head forward and gently rotate your head towards the hand that is under your tight. Again, keep going until you feel a comfortable stretch on that side of your neck.

– Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and slowly return to the start position.

5) Breathe

Uh, what? How can breathing be an exercise?! Well it is and an important one at that! Not only does breathing properly help the body perform better physically, it also helps you perform better mentally. Deep breathing exercises have been shown to improve circulation, stabilize blood pressure levels, improve mental clarity, increase overall energy levels, and much more. Plus, as an added bonus, it’s something that you can do anytime, anywhere! Deep breathing allows the diaphragm to move through its entire range of motion and allows every part of the lung to be utilized to receive oxygen.

– Find a comfortable chair to sit in or a comfortable surface to lie down on. Place both of your hands on your stomach. It might be easier to do this exercise with your eyes closed and in a non-distracting environment.

– Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4. You should feel your stomach expand underneath your hands as you inhale.

– Pause for 2 seconds

– Slowly exhale as if you were blowing into a straw for a count of 8.

– Repeat

Symbio Physio Therapy

Michael H. Oakes, PT, DPT is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and is the Director of Resident Education at Symbio Physiotherapy.  Having taken advanced education courses through the North American Institute of Orthopedic Manual Therapy in conjunction with the completion of the Connect Therapy Series in Vancouver, Michael specializes in helping people of all movement backgrounds move, feel, and live their best.  Firmly believing that nothing in the body works in strict isolation, he utilizes a whole-body approach to treatment and works closely with his patients to train and develop healthy and more optimal strategies for movement.  In addition to his clinical work, Michael is an assistant teacher in the doctor of physical therapy program at Touro College and is currently working towards his orthopedic manual certification.

Interested in getting treatment? Visit Symbio’s website at or call (917) 338-6268!

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