How to Stay Fit and Healthy as a Shift Working Nurse
Exercise is a crucial element of a healthy lifestyle. No one knows this better than nurses and other healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, knowing how important exercise is doesn’t automatically make it easy to do. Nurses, nursing students, and other healthcare staff often work long hours. Many work shifts where their hours are unpredictable, routines are impossible, and often, working out is the last thing on their minds.
But without regular exercise, we all start to suffer. Fitting exercise in can be hard, and it might feel as though you are too tired to hit the gym but, actually, exercise can reduce fatigue and help you to get more done in your day. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some tips to help shift-working nurses and other medical staff stay fit and healthy, even on those rough late shifts and doubles.
Anchor Workouts and Routine to Events in Your Day
The biggest problem with shift work is that it’s almost impossible to stick to any kind of routine. You can’t always go to the gym after work, as it might not be open. You can’t meet a friend for a walk if they are asleep when you get off work or working during your off-hours. You might not even be able to work out at home if you live in an apartment and your neighbors are sound asleep when your energy levels are high.
This makes life difficult, and exercise can seem impossible. For many shift workers and nursing students the key to finding routine is to time things around events in your day, not specific times of the day.
Start thinking about your days in terms of when you do things, not what the rest of the world is doing at that particular time. You always wake up, you always eat meals, you always clock off. Time workouts around these events, without worrying about specific times.
Train to Your Energy Levels
We’re not all morning people. Nor are we all night owls. Some of us finish a shift with a rush of adrenaline. Others get home exhausted ready for nothing but bed. Of course, this can depend on your day, and what has been happening too. In healthcare, no two days are the same, which means that there are no rules to follow with exercise. Some of us are filled with energy first thing in the morning, and so happy to get up early and go for a run. Others start the day more slowly and prefer to work out after work, to burn off some energy and make relaxing easier. Work out when your energy levels are highest but be flexible enough to know that this could change from day to day.
Whether you are already working as a nurse or studying one of these online accelerated BSN programs for non nurses from Baylor University around another job, you are bound to be tired, and sleep is so important.
Prioritize sleep over other things, even exercise, and you might actually find that you have more energy and that you are able to get more done in less time than if you set an early alarm or stayed up late to fit a workout in before bed.
Yes, exercise helps you to sleep. But sleep also makes exercise easier and the two need to work together if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle while working shifts.
Give Your Workouts Purpose
We’re generally more likely to work out when there’s motivation beyond, “it’s good for me”. We like targets. That’s why gyms are so busy in January when people are yet to give up on their New Year’s resolutions, and in May when there’s hope of a summer body.
To Stay Healthy
The most obvious reason to work out is to stay healthy. As a healthcare worker, you should be surrounded by motivation and reminders of the importance of exercise.
To Boost Energy Levels
If you are working shifts, it’s easy to struggle with energy. It’s hard to get into a sleep routine, and easy to feel exhausted. Exercise will help you to sleep, but it will also help boost your energy levels and fight off tiredness.
To Set an Example
As a healthcare worker, exercising and staying healthy helps you to set a good example for patients, family members, and the wider community.
To Care for Your Mental Health
Unfortunately, nurses face some terrible things. Yes, work can be inspiring, and certainly fulfilling. But it can also be stressful and upsetting. Many medical professionals struggle with their mental health.
Exercise gives you a way to burn off negative energy, to take some time out, to focus on yourself, and have time to think and to boost your mood and your confidence. All of this can be incredibly good for your mental health.
To Protect Your Joints
Nursing is very physical. There are long days on your feet but also plenty of lifting and bending. It’s common for nurses to struggle with joint pain and inflammation. Exercise helps to build strength and protect joints.
Great Exercises for Nurses
Knowing which exercises to practice can also make them easier to fit in. Here’s a look at a few great forms of exercise for nurses.
Chances are you spend a lot of time on your feet already. But, walking on varied terrain can still be an excellent workout, building core strength and leg muscles, helping you to get some fresh air, and giving you a chance to relax and unwind.
If you really don’t have much time to exercise, cycling to and from work uses different muscles to walking and it will help you to get there and back faster.
Yoga is an excellent exercise for anyone with a stressful job. It helps you to let go of stress and worry while boosting strength and improving posture. If you are struggling with back pain, which many nurses do, yoga can be an excellent choice.
Classes won’t always be possible when you work shifts but getting to them when you can is a great idea. Classes help you to stay motivated, and we generally work harder when we work out with other people.
If you are really struggling to work out regularly, it might be useful to think outside the box. Was there a sport that you loved as a kid that you could try? Or something a friend does? Often, the things that are fun are the things that we stick with.