This one is for all of you shift workers out there… Jane Sandwood has put together a great read, thats full of tips to help you tackle what can be a slippery slope.

Shift workers make up 45% of the Canadian population. There have been many studies highlighting the health risks of shift work, most recently the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study which found that women who have worked rotating night shifts experience shorter lifespans and have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The benefits of physical activity are well understood, having been shown to reduce the risk of over 25 chronic conditions. Faced with ever-changing shifts, how can you get into the habit of keeping fit and use fitness to counteract the health problems caused by shift work?

Types Of Workout

Shift workers are often time-poor so High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a good option. With efforts and rest periods of 30 seconds each over 20-25 minutes, HIIT is great for burning fat, adding muscle and improving cardiovascular fitness in a short time. Another option is to work on your strength by lifting some weights or doing a bodyweight circuit which will give you plenty of bang for your buck. Or, depending on energy levels, go for a run or a cycle ride in the fresh air or do a yoga or stretching session to relax. Always, save longer, tougher sessions for days off in order to gain maximum benefit and to be able to recover completely.

When To Workout?

The Canadian government recommends being active for 2.5 hours a week to gain health benefits. But shift work affects your sleep, wreaking havoc with your circadian rhythms and consequently affecting your energy levels. The last thing you will feel like doing after a night shift is a workout but try exercising before you sleep, it will help you relax and sleep longer and more deeply, especially if you do a yoga or stretching session. Another option is to exercise before you start your shift which results in improved alertness levels throughout your shift. Exercising at different times will suit different people but they key is getting into the habit of regularly exercising at the same time of day.

You Are What You Eat

Nutrition is a key part of fitness. Try to eat your main meal before you go to work and a light snack before you go to sleep after your shift. The temptation to drink coffee and eat snacks at 2am is high, so bring plenty healthy snacks from home to eat whilst you are on shift. The reality is that many shift workers tend to skip meals and end up eating high fat, processed sugary snacks to keep them going which results in a high incidence of gastrointestinal problems and obesity. Pre-preparation at home will keep unhealthy food down to a minimum and have a positive contribution to your overall health and fitness levels.
Keeping fit is a great way to counteract the health problems associated with shift work. Decide on the best time for you to exercise, find a workout that suits you and watch what you eat and you will soon reap the health benefits of fitness.

Written by: Tommy Europe