Yes, It’s Possible To Stay Fit When You Work Weird Hours

best exercises for shift workers

Unsplash/Brooke Cagle

Regardless of whether you’re a doctor on call, a late-night bartender or a newsdesk journalist who logs on at 6 a.m., you know the struggle of working odd shift hours. Your sleep window doesn’t match up with the rest of your friends, your meal times feel all out of whack and your exercise routine is pretty much nonexistent. We feel you, but we also want to help you adjust that last one there.

Yes, it is possible to stay fit when you work weird hours. It might take a little more focus and dedication than a nine-to-fiver needs, but hey, if you want it badly enough, you’ll make it happen. So let’s look outside the confines of the local gym and its crappy hours of operation and find how fitness can become a daily part of your routine again.

Outdoor Running

best exercises for shift workers

Unsplash/Seth Macey

If you work shift hours, it’s likely that some of your off hours fall between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., AKA broad daylight. This window is the optimal time to nurture that outdoor jogging habit. The best paths won’t be crowded AF, visibility is at its best for safety purposes and you can reap the sunny benefits of vitamin D (so long as you’re wearing that SPF, too). Try logging your run right after your shift ends. The bout of exercise will help you fall asleep faster when the time comes and remain asleep for longer no matter the time of day.

High-Intensity Interval Training

best exercises for shift workers

Unsplash/Becca Matimba

Shift work often means that you don’t have a ton of time to spare in your day, so make those workouts as efficient as possible with high-intensity interval training. A 20-minute HIIT workout can provide the same benefits as a traditional 40-minute cardio and strength training routine, and everyone can spare 20 minutes, right? Even if you break it into two 10-minute sessions, that’s definitely better than nothing.

Go For A Dip

best exercises for shift workers

Unsplash/Haley Phelps

If your shift work requires standing for hours on end, getting off your feet is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you clock out. So follow that intuition straight to the local swimming pool and get some laps in. The rush of the water across your body will feel both soothing and invigorating, and the workout boosts your cardiovascular health while protecting those joints. You’ll jump out of the pool feeling like a brand new person.

Walk, Walk, Walk

best exercises for shift workers

Unsplash/Lindsay Henwood

The more you move, the better, and it doesn’t have to be in a traditional workout structure, either. On your breaks, take walks. When stairs are an option, use them instead of an elevator. If your commute can be navigated on foot safely, do so. The more time you spend stepping it out, the less you’ll struggle with the risk factors that come along with a sedentary lifestyle. And that’s certainly a win in our book.


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