Achieving wellness and health with a hectic lifestyle
There are 24 hours in a day and in this day and age it seems like every second is precious. With today’s crazy and fast moving life, you have to balance a career, social life, family, and daily chores which has made exercise at the bottom of our societies list. It is often hard to make time to exercise and get at least 30-45 minutes of a decent workout. Some people are fortunate enough to work 9-5 jobs in various fields, but for others, they have to adapt and adjust to ever changing schedules that go along with shift work. These hectic shift work schedules lead to inconsistent sleep schedules, making it nearly impossible to find time to work out and lead a healthy lifestyle… One good quote that I try to stress to people is, “Most people work hard and spend their health trying to achieve wealth. Then they retire and spend their wealth trying to get back their health.”
Speaking from personal experience, I had to make a drastic change in my exercise and diet in order to function and perform well with my hectic and ever shifting schedule. Sacrifices had to be made and strict schedules had to be enforced. The first and probably most important thing that had to be changed was my diet. You have to have a good, healthy, balanced diet in order to succeed at any exercise goals. Doing shift work, this is not an easy task; the biggest change I made was I had to start meal prepping every week and plan what/when I was going to eat to ensure I made healthy choices and met my macros. Some people would say, “But Matt, I don’t have enough time in the day to meal prep,” when really what I hear is, “but Matt, preparing food and meal prepping ahead of time isn’t a priority for me.” A good way to plan a meal prep is to find a recipe that is easy to make and relatively quick. A good example of this is a healthy stir fry; veggies, rice, and chicken or a lean meat. This is an easy meal to make in less than half an hour and can be made in bulk and kept all week. Another example for a breakfast meal prep is just as simple as a spinach and scrambled egg sandwich on a sprouted grain bread.
Now for the exercise and sleep part. Staying active every day can increase your quality of life and can give you a sense of control and normalcy, which the shift worker desperately needs. Routine exercise along with getting an adequate amount of sleep everyday are always a top priority of mine. I try to have at least 1 hour to work out every day and aim to sleep at least 7 hours a night. With that being said, to reach this goal, some days I must make sacrifices in other areas of my life. For example, I rarely watch television or go out with my friends on work days, and save my extracurricular activities for my off days. Shift workers work hard and sacrifice a normal schedule so that they can provide for themselves and their families. Don’t sacrifice your health for your job though, don’t let your career become an excuse to not lead a healthy lifestyle. What they found was that moderate physical training can increase the physical fitness of female shift workers, and reduces work dependent fatigue and musculoskeletal symptoms. I have a strict sleeping schedule that I enforce upon myself; for example, when I am working a day shift, I am in bed no later than 8pm and I wake up around 3:30-4am. When I am working nights, I hit the bed as soon as I get home around 4:30-5am and wake up around 12:30/1pm. I have to be strict with this in order to function and to recovery properly. I have a fit bit that tracks my sleep cycle and sleep schedule which helps me ensure I am getting enough and quality sleep. Get a regular sleep cycle and try to stick to it as best as you can. The thing that worked best for me was investing in blackout curtains, which really helps my get to sleep during night shifts especially.
Your health needs to be something that becomes a priority, and that starts with adequate nutrition, sleep, and exercise that even the shift worker can achieve. Find some time every day to workout, whether it be when you wake up before work or right after you get off work. It’s not a one size fits all, everyone is going to have their own preference of when they want to work out. You just have to find what works best for you, but make it a priority to get to the gym at least 4-5 times a week. Dedicate a day, once a week, to meal prep your food. This can be a fun thing to do with your family that makes life so much easier and leads to less temptation to go out and get fast food when you’re too tired after work. Like I said, you have to find your own way and do what works best for best for you. It’s time to start prioritizing your health and wellbeing, don’t let shift work be an excuse any more.
Matthew Neid, M.S.