10 tips for staying healthy when working long shifts


by Adam Torkildson

There are certain jobs that require people to work long, crazy hours; such as nurses, doctors, night responders, engineers and more. Demanding jobs makes it hard to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan. How can nurses and other professionals stay fit and sharp on 12-hour shifts?

People who work long hours often skip meals, eat unhealthy junk food, have irregular eating hours and find it difficult to establish a regular exercise routine. Shift workers are at risk for heart diseases and weight gain and the only solution to mitigate health disorders is to find ways to eat healthy and exercise.

The best tips for staying healthy on a 12-hour shift

  • Sleep
  • The first step to staying active during a long shift is to get sufficient sleep prior to resuming work. Many bad things happen when you don’t sleep properly. You might overeat, feel unhappy and find your energy levels slowly depleting.

  • Diet
  • Whatever your working schedule, diet is still the most important factor for staying healthy and contributes 70-80% to the success of any fitness plan. So, you don’t have to worry when you miss a few workout sessions as long as you stick to a healthy meal plan.

  • Always keep home-cooked meals at home and work
  • If you’re working night shifts, the only place to grab a meal would be a fast food or diner. If you’re sleepy, you’re more likely to reach for unhealthy junk food. Stock your workstation or fridge with easily consumed raw vegetables such as carrots and green apple slices, raisins, raw almonds, hummus, avocados and bananas. You can get carbs from whole grains, wild rice, brown rice and other slow-burning food that keep you energetic and productive for long periods.

  • Prepare meals before shift and bring your own food to work
  • It’s a smart idea to pick a day of the week to do all your cooking. Make large portions of your favorite healthy meals and freeze them for easy access. It makes it easier to stick to a diet plan when you bring your own meals to work rather than buying greasy takeout food. The food you consume should include oatmeal, fruit smoothies, ready-to-eat fruits, dark green leafy veggies, soups, oily fish, beans and other low-calorie add-ons such as wheat bread, peanut butter and healthy salad dressing.

  • Avoid bad liquid calories
  • A long shift entails a few things such as exhaustion, lack of time to cook, hunger when you forget to pack a meal and boredom on nights when there is no activity. You might turn to caffeine for an energy boost when you feel drained, but most of these empty liquid calories such as energy drinks, soda and lattes contain over 50 gram of sugar and hundreds of calories. Sugar is bad for your body as it causes you to add weight. Drink a low-calorie energy drink, green tea and black coffee. Gradually wean yourself off relying on caffeine until you’ve developed a love of green tea.

  • Learn to love good liquid calories
  • If your long shifts don’t leave time for meal preparation, make a smoothie. It’s an incredibly healthy option that contains all the nutrients and vitamins to keep you healthy. Buy a cheap blender and try the following recipe:

    • A cup of unsweetened coconut or almond milk
    • An organic frozen fruit such as strawberries
    • Organic frozen spinach or kale
    • One tablespoon of raw almond butter
    • One spoonful of protein shake
    • Ice cubes to make it thicker

  • Create a schedule and stick to it
  • Create a diet schedule that works for you. Do not skip meals, as your body needs the energy to perform at optimum levels. For night shifts, skip heavy meals, eat breakfast when you get home and lunch after a good rest. A routine helps your body metabolize food more quickly.

  • Exercise regularly
  • Some jobs require you to sit for long periods in front of a computer without moving, so try standing every hour for a few minutes. Walk up and down a flight of stairs, stretch your legs and find workouts tailored for long hour shifts.

    The following are exercises routines you can do to stay fit during a long shift

    Deep breathing: Taking deep breaths helps to relieve stress, increase energy and decrease tension.

    Squats: This complete body workout strengthens your legs and entire body. Your body relies on harmony between your hamstrings, glutes and quads to move or perform strenuous activities. When you strengthen them, it reduces the occurrence of injury by increasing strength in your knees.

    Health expert, P.K. Scheerle from travel nurse agency, Gifted Healthcare says squats is one of the most important workout routine for nurses because it’s a weight-bearing exercise that maintains bone density and increases career longevity.

    Prone Cobra: An early morning workout that strengthens the upper back and shoulder back.

  • Gym sessions
  • A gym is an excellent place to work out without distraction. You have access to weight training that optimally stresses your muscles for better efficiency. Most gym sessions last 45-60 minutes and should be done at least twice a week.

    Your workout should include deadlifts, military press, chin-ups, barbell bent over row and squats.

  • Home workouts:
  • Some travelling health professionals who know the benefit of workout always carry a few workout accessories when they’re posted to a new location. Home workouts are beneficial for those who are too tired to visit the gym after long shifts. While home workouts don’t build much muscle, they generate metabolic effect that burns fat and maintains a healthy cardiovascular system.

    Sessions might include side planks, jump squats, plank, dumbbell lunge hold, mountain climbers, and plyometric push-ups, among others. It’s best to work out before meals and target periods when your mental and physical energy will be high.

    Conclusion

    If you work long shifts, it’s hard to stay in shape, get enough sleep or find time to exercise regularly. Always aim for seven hours of sleep to keep you alert during periods of inactivity. Ensure that you follow these workout tips, plan your meals, cook your meals ahead of time and try to exercise for at least 3 hours every week.




    Adam Torkildson
    Adam Torkildson

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