An Expanding Waistline – Why A Cosy Trip In The Flight Deck Left Me Anxious.

Man Waist FatOne 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 workerSo 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.

How To Find The Motivation To Exercise When You Really Don't Want Too.

Now a lot of shift workers lack motivation to do anything let alone exercise because most of us are struggling with extreme fatigue, lethargy and an overwhelming feeling of tiredness.

So how do you find the motivation to exercise when you’ve lost it (or perhaps never had it?)

By making a conscious decision to improve your health.

You see most things are easy to do, but they’re also easy not to do. And for most people, they take the easiest option.

Let’s take getting up and off the couch to go for a walk, as an example. You can make the choice to go for that walk, or you can take the lazy option and stay put on the couch. The trouble with most people is that they take the lazy option which of course leads to weight gain, feeling more lethargic and poor health.

Exercise is essential to maintain good health, whether you work shift work or not.

In fact I believe that it’s even more important because it’s frighteningly easy not to look after yourself when you work shift work.

Using shift work as an ‘excuse’ or any other reasons why you can’t exercise is not going to help you to improve your health.

If you fail to exercise, this neglect or laziness causes your body to become just that – neglected, soft, lazy and fat. When you don’t exercise you are actually depleting your energy levels even more. Studies have shown that a lack of exercise can also lead to boredom and depression.

So make the decision to get out and do some exercise. Have your joggers and exercise gear ready to go … staring at you in the face as soon as you get up, or in the way so that you literally have to step over them to get through your front door.

In time you will see your muscles grow and the fat go away which should be enough motivation to keep you on track.

Bad habits can wait on you forever, in fact they don’t really ever go away. They will always be there, just around the corner, lurking and looking for an opening. But don’t wait until you have a heart attack before you remember you have a body!

Fat, unhappy and slumped on the couch versus looking trim, energized and glowing with health? I know which one I’d rather choose. How about you?

Exercise – The Dreaded Shift Work Word!

Now I bet there are lots of people reading this post right now that cringe at the mere sighting of the word -‘Exercise’. In fact exercise can be a shift workers worst enemy, because it’s one of those things that we try to avoid doing like the plague – even though we know that it’s good for us to do.

So is there a form of exercise that’s perfectly designed for shift workers?

Absolutely! But it’s probably not what you’re thinking.

The perfect form of exercise for shift workers is simply … drum roll please … any form of exercise that you enjoy doing!.

Because if you enjoy doing a particular type of exercise, then you’re more likely to actually stick to it. As opposed to one that you really don’t like – then you simply refrain from doing it.

Now I don’t know about you, but I reckon that it’s hard enough finding the motivation to exercise, let alone having to overcome boredom as well.

But the good news is that the world is really your oyster when it comes to exercise, because there are so many ways to get active.

For example, you might enjoy being in water so you could choose to do a heap of laps in the pool (hmmmm… I’m thinking this would not be much fun at all) – or perhaps you could take up kayaking or paddle boarding. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring and monotonous. If it is then you won’t be doing it for very long.

Or perhaps you’d rather stay inside and do something indoors. I’m thinking pilates, aerobics, squash, or if you’re feeling really uptight and stressed … perhaps karate or fencing might tickle your fancy?

Just remember that it really doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you just do something.

Our bodies are designed and built for movement – not for sitting in a chair all day.

And what’s even more exciting is that when you actually find something that you really enjoy doing (and you keep doing it) – you will start to notice and reap the BENEFITS.

Whether that’s an improvement in your level of fitness; a more toned and muscular body; a reduction in your stress levels; or what’s probably the most highly sought after solution for a lot of shift workers – is to drop a few pounds or kilograms.

So remember, exercise is a really good thing to do if you work shift work.

And there’s no such thing as feeling ” too tired to do any exercise” – (OK, I will make an exception … straight after night duty!) Because if you actually get off that couch and make an effort to move your body, you’ll find that you’re not as tired as you thought you were. And once your body gets used to doing exercise on a regular basis, it will actually crave for more.

So if you’re reading this post and you’re starting to feel overwhelmingly guilty from being a serial ‘nana napper’ or couch potato, then it’s time to start moving that body of yours.

It’s certainly not too late to start that New Year’s Resolution … even if it is in fact April!