Shift Work Health: Are You A Green, Blue or Pink Walker?

As the weeks, months and years go by; do you feel like you’re getting older or younger? Sound like a silly question? Perhaps so – particularly when you have to work some pretty erratic hours which are undeniably hazardous on your health.

But what if I was to ask you a different question.

“Are you a Green, Blue or Pink Walker?”

Confused? Well despite stating the obvious (as we are indeed getting older), I’d like to share with you a little story which kind of conflicts with the “getting older” theory.

This real life story is actually based on my own personal experience after staying at a health retreat last week.

You see when I first started shift work some 20 years ago; (OK now I’m really starting to show my age) I was a mess. I was tired, exhausted, my immune system was in really bad shape, I had gained 10 kilograms in 12 months, and was feeling utterly miserable.

I had no idea working shift work would turn my life upside down. My physical, mental and emotional health had gone haywire the moment I started to work irregular hours.

Gee, I don’t remember this being mentioned in my job interview all those years ago.

Anyway, a couple of years into my shift working career I decided to seek some advice on taking better care of my health so I booked myself into a health retreat for a week. Wow! How awesome was that? It was a truly life changing experience. I learnt so much and was able to apply things into my own shift working life straight away.

What’s interesting however, is when I visited this health retreat nearly 20 years ago I was given a “low physical fitness rating”.

That’s right. At the tender age of 23 years old I was told I was very unfit.

Not something to be particularly proud of.

So when the Personal Trainer recommended I undertake the Green Walk (the easiest walk at the entire retreat) – I was both mortified and a little embarrassed at being told I was so unfit.

The walks at the retreat were rated as follows:
Green = easy
Blue = moderate
Pink = challenging.

So my Green Walk had no steep hills or rugged terrain to climb – just a long flat road with a few bends and turns along the way.

Fast forward some 17 years later and here I am again – back at the same health retreat which I’d visited 20 odd years earlier, but this time much older.

This time I was 40-something year old woman who was not going to be another ‘Green Walk Statistic!’

I was determined to do the more challenging walk – the Pink Walk. Not once, but several times. So despite the fact that I was almost double my age and I had worked many, many years on a rotating roster 24/7, I can honestly say that I am much fitter and healthier now than when I was back then in my early 20’s.

And that really is an awesome feeling!

So how did I do it? Well after leaving the health retreat all those years ago, I decided to do one thing and that was to take 100% responsibility for my health.

I stopped blaming the hours that I worked and the job that I was doing as the reason for my weight gain and lack of fitness. I got rid of my “woe is me” attitude and started to change my thinking and behaviour.

Sure, working irregular hours certainly makes it harder, but it’s not the only reason why shift workers gain weight and get sick.

Everything comes back to taking personal responsibility for your shift work health.

After my initial visit to the health retreat, I made a conscious decision to take 100% responsibility for my health which included what food I put into my mouth; making sure I allocated time to improve my fitness, and making health my Number 1 priority.

That’s right – Number 1.

Not number 2 or 3 – number 1. Because let’s face it, spending hours at work earning money is pointless if you don’t have your health. You don’t want to just aim for a long life – you want to aim for a long and healthy life, even if you do have to work 24/7.


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