One of the major challenges I hear from shift workers is a constant struggle to lose weight. An expanding waistline that seems to steadily creep up on us over the years and before we know it, we need to buy larger sizes of clothes in the hope that it may help to disguise this extra weight.
Of course a steady weight gain is not surprising really given our lethargic lifestyles and reliance on highly refined, processed foods to help curb our appetite whenever we are feeling too tired to cook. However a few months ago when I was lucky enough to catch a ride home in the flight deck (one of the many perks when working in the aviation industry), something struck me which made me even more concerned about our expanding waistlines and the subsequent ill-effects that occur from being overweight.
As I strapped myself into the jump seat and listened in earnest to the emergency evacuation drill from the co-pilot, I could not help but feel a little concerned. Whilst the co-pilot went through the evacuation process in the unlikely event that something catastrophic may happen to the flight, he directed me to the window which was above his right. In other words, if we had to make an emergency landing we would be climbing through “his window” as a means of escape. I said “sure – no problem”, but what I declined to ask (despite the question vigorously spinning around in my head), was how HE was going to get through that window.
You see, I’m a fairly lean and flexible person – thanks to a bit of walking, swimming and yoga I would have had no problem in jumping out that window if I absolutely had to. But the the co-pilot, on the other hand … well let me just say that his waistline would have prevented both him and myself, from getting through that window in a hurry if the aircraft ever did have to make an emergency landing.
This left me really anxious. Whilst I knew I could get out that window if I really had to, I felt like my life was in the hands of someone else – that his expanding waistline could have prevented my escape from a potentially life-threatening situation.
In Dr Pamela Peeke’s book, Fit to Live she asks her readers the following question – “Are you physically fit to live?” Because as Pamela explains, to really enjoy life you need to have strength and balance, be able to stand up and see your toes, and be flexible. However what is of even more importance is that if you were ever faced with an emergency situation (which I hope you never will), could you save your life? Could you run down or up 10, 20, 30 or even more flights of stairs? Could you escape through a burning window or climb under a car if you had to?
You see, you don’t want to just be healthy. Health and fitness are not the same. You can be healthy but unfit at the same time. You need to be both. You need to be physically fit so that you can live your life the best that you possibly can, but also be fit enough to save your life (or that of another life) in the unlikely event that you were faced with an emergency situation.
I get that exercise or movement of any kind can be an incredibly hard thing to do when you’re feeling tired and lethargic. As a 20 year shift work veteran I totally understand this quandary, but it’s something that you need to do regularly to help keep your waistline in check.
In essence, it’s not something that you want to avoid. The good news however, is the fitter you become the more energy you will acquire which is a great motivating tool for any energy-depleted shift worker. So go on, find a way to get your body moving again so that you can get your waistline back in check because you never know when your life (and the life of others) may actually depend on it.