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How to stay active and healthy while working long shifts

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By Dr Ryan Harvey

Staying active and healthy while working long shifts can be difficult – even more so if you are working nights. This is because you are more likely to eat irregularly, consume unhealthy foods or even skip meals. These bad eating habits can have negative impacts on your health, including weight gain or worse, heart problems.

As it is very important to keep a healthy lifestyle, here are a few tips for shift workers to help stay in good shape.

  1. Stock up on healthy foods

Rather than buying unhealthy food following a long shift, stock up on healthy alternatives, both at home and work. It’ll mean you’ll be less likely to reach for any junk food and you’ll be one step closer to maintaining an improved lifestyle. Other than the obvious fruits and vegetables, try buying hummus, nuts or energy bars (homemade are better) for quick go-to snacks. If you are looking for more carbs in your diet, a good start is to swap white grains for brown rice, rolled oats and wholemeal bread.

  1. Prepare your meals before shifts

You may have heard this tip time and time again but preparing your meals before shifts is an easy way to eat healthily. By having meals ready to eat when you get home or you’re at work, you can eliminate having to cook when you are tired and hungry. Examples of healthy foods can include grilled chicken, vegetables, rice and oats for breakfast. You can look at preparing these meals a few days in advance and freezing them, or even using a slow cooker to have meals cooking during your shift, ready for when you arrive home.

  1. Use your time away from work to exercise

Though it may be the last thing you want to do before or after a shift, try to exercise as much as possible in your spare time. If you are finding this difficult, look for ways to incorporate exercise into your shift while working. For instance, take the stairs, stand rather than sit or if possible, walk to work. These small exercises will make a bigger difference than you think.

  1. Try getting as much sleep as possible

Getting enough sleep can be quite hard for people who work night or long shifts. If you do not get adequate sleep, there are many negative effects it can have on your body, from being unproductive to overeating. By using the previous tips, including preparing your meals and exercising, you will have more time to sleep when you get home and you will be more tired so your quality of sleep should improve.


Dr Ryan Harvey is the Assistant Medical Director at House Call Doctor. Dr Harvey is highly experienced in paediatrics and has administered medical care to children living in remote overseas communities. He now works with many families, administering acute care when unexpected medical situations arise overnight.

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