Are you a shift worker? Adapting to shift work while also setting healthy habits can be challenging for many. Shift work can have some worrying health impacts, including weight gain, high stress, and mental health issues. However, it’s not all negative. I’m here to tell you, you can take control of your health and fitness while working shift work.
Physical exercise comes with a whole range of benefits. From psychological to physical health benefits, exercise can minimise the negative health effectsof shift work.
Research has shown that exercise had an effect in increasing gut microbes that help to reduce inflammatory diseases as well as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
If you’re completing a long shift, it can be hard to make the time mentally to exercise. Just like someone working a 9-5, the best time to exercise is before work to get in the right mind frame and stay energised in the day. It’s best to stay in a healthy routine by exercising, going to work, then coming home to get your sleep.
Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night
Although the exact mechanisms are unknown, exercise can help aid in a better sleep. Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature and the drop in temperature after exercise may promote the faster onset of sleep.
A healthy amount of sleep is to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every day. Ensure your sleep environment is cool, dark, and quiet. As a shift worker, you must make sleep a priority.
Practice mindfulness and gratitude
Working antisocial hours has shown it can prematurely age the brain and dull intellectual ability. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can not only help you keep your brain active, but it can also allow you to take a break from the high-stress of working night shifts.
During your break, try to take five minutes to focus on yourself and your breathing. This can help you re-focus and be present for the rest of your shift.
Ensure you are preparing your meals and snacks ahead of time to ensure you’re still consuming enough protein and vegetables. If you can’t eat as frequently, it’s ok to combine bigger meals into 3 meals per day.
Our biggest tip is to pack healthy meals and snacks that can be consumed hot or cold. Avoid high fat, fried, and spicy foods in these meals, and skip the sweet snacks that will give you shorter bursts of energy, but can make you feel sluggish later on in the day.
Make sure you keep up with your water to help you feel energised and fuller for longer. Maintaining hydration during your shift will also keep your brain active and will help fight fatigue. Take regular sips during your shift, rather than a few glasses every few hours. Never go without water for over two hours, particularly if you are working in a hot, dry environment.
Connect with Others
Finally, don’t neglect your social life! As a shift worker, we know there are more challenges when trying to be social than a 9 - 5 worker.
Try to catch up with friends who have similar schedules. They are more likely to understand your schedule and the nature of shift work.
When it comes to catching up with friends and family, it’s all about communication. Make plans in advance so you have something to look forward to and your closest ones can make plans too.
Shift work can be tough, but we’re here to let you know a healthy balanced lifestyle can still be maintained by following the right tips. Ensure you are prioritising exercise. A well-rounded fitness program will help your cognitive functioning.