12 hour shifts and weight/exercise.

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    I was wondering if any other nurses have advice on how to work these long shifts and still be at a healthy weight. How do you fit in exercise? How do you eat regular, healthy meals? I always read that we must work out at least 5 days a week doing cardiovascular exercise along with 2 days a week of strength-training for weight loss. For me, this seems impossible to do. I am so tired after my 12 hour shifts (which usually turn into 13 to 14 hour shifts) with sore feet that it is very hard to exercise after work. I have to get up so early and have such a long day ahead of me, there is no chance of exercising before work. On my days off I still feel exhausted a lot of the time. Then I have to catch up on errands, housework, shopping, family, etc.

    For those of you who do work out, do you fit it in before work? After work? On your days off? How long do you work out? Do you do walk? Do weight-training? Before I was a nurse and started working 12 hours shifts, I worked a job that had 8 hour shifts and I exercised at least 30 minutes a day and was in much better shape, but I am having such a hard time keeping a regular eating and exercise schedule with these shifts. I'm in my 30s and I know I need to strength-train and do cardio exercise as well. I just don't know how to fit enough exercise for weight loss in on my days off. Has working 12 hour shifts affected your weight positively or negatively? For me, it's been negatively.
    Last edit by NurseFrustrated on Oct 29, '10

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  2. 24 Comments...

  3. 0
    I am in my first year of nursing and I have gained 20lbs! =( This is with working out 3x a week with a mix of cardio and weights on those days. I would hate to think how much more weight I would have gained if I did not work out. I tend to stress eat and it has been a very stressful year. I can't wait to see what tips people give you.
  4. 0
    Quote from Flo.
    I am in my first year of nursing and I have gained 20lbs! =( This is with working out 3x a week with a mix of cardio and weights on those days. I would hate to think how much more weight I would have gained if I did not work out. I tend to stress eat and it has been a very stressful year. I can't wait to see what tips people give you.
    This is part of my problem too. Stress eating after a long, exhausting shift. I know exercising 3 times a week is good for weight maintenance and health but I'm not sure if it is sufficient to lose weight for me. In the past when I have lost weight, I had to exercise daily. It's been hard to figure this out with these long shifts.
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    I think being careful with what you eat is absolutely the most important thing. I lost about forty pounds in six months before I started working full time in nursing, and about thirty pounds in six months after. I walk to work about 1.5 miles each way, but I know that's not feasible for everyone. I go to the gym and/or go on a long bike ride every day I'm not at work, so that's four times a week--not bad! You can fit five days' worth of exercise into four days with no problem, and you will have more energy if you are getting more exercise to do the chores and errands you mention.

    Don't forget that our jobs are active, if we work in acute care. Most of the guidelines for how much exercise people need are based on people who sit at a desk all day.

    So my point is, I don't think you should feel like weight loss is impossible because of your work schedule. Don't let it be the barrier to better health.

    But as I said, I think eating is going to be more important. There's a classic way to look at this: you'd have to run for half an hour to burn off the calories in a candy bar--wouldn't it be easier just to skip the candy bar in the first place?

    Exercise is great, but most people eat more than they need to. I eat extremely healthy food, but what it came down to is that I was just eating more than my body needed. I can't eat as much as other people. It sucks, but that's the way it is!

    KEEP TRACK of your eating (and drinking! lots of soda-drinking among nurses!) and don't take in more than you need. There are lots of online calculators for this; I liked SparkPeople, though its calorie recommendations were still too high for me, but your metabolism probably isn't as slow as mine.

    There's nothing magical about "working out". A hundred years ago people didn't "exercise", AND most of them didn't get fat. Almost everyone was very physical in their daily work, whether farming or factory or housework, so they didn't need to "exercise". Our jobs are somewhat unusual these days in that they ARE physical. We're lucky not to be sitting behind a desk!

    Good luck! You can do it.
    shannarini71, Erindel RN, Altra, and 1 other like this.
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    I also have issues with this. I'm a marathon runner, but recently started working full-time, making it much harder to get regular exercise. Since winter has arrived, I'm getting a LOT less. What I'm utilizing lately is a BodyBugg. You can get them on QVC or Amazon. They are extremely active at counting strides and your calories burned. For me, it is key to really keep track of how much I'm burning. I know what I have burned, so I eat less than I've burned and am losing weight. They are worn on the arm and are not visible under scrubs.
    Michelle.Ann likes this.
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    I am now im my 3rd year of nursing school... and I have been losing weight! I feel during my 12 hour shifts that I dont want to eat, and then I come home and pass out right away after a total scrub down. I have always been small, I weight around 110 lbs. And for someone like me I lose weight when I am stressed because I do not eat properly.

    Does anyone else have this problem?...
  8. 1
    Water, water,water

    I have dropped 53 pounds in the past 4 months through a combination of diet, exercise, and mental health supports.

    I work mental health and with my commute I work just about 60 hours a week. My trip to the gym is a priority. On PMs I go before I leave for work. On days I go just before bed.
    Michelle.Ann likes this.
  9. 2
    I'm really into exercise, health, and wellness so I don't let the 12 hour shifts get in the way of my fitness (I also have another part time job)!! Fitness was my 1st career, so I'm passionate about this subject. :heartbeat

    When I started in my nursing career, I didn't workout or eat right, I gained weight quickly. I found myself drinking a lot of diet soda, eating unhealthy snacks, and not packing my food meant eating in the cafeteria and I didn't make good choices.

    1) Food: Eating clean, whole foods is definitely #1, along with water intake. I make my meals the night before and buy easy to make, easy to grab meals and snacks-like trail mix, bars, dried or fresh fruit. I limit myself to 3 diet sodas a week, and drink more tea and water during my shift.

    If I'm in a time crunch & didn't cook, I will grab my bag of spinach, tofurky deli "meat", apples, yogurt, cheese sticks, luna or larabar, and a pita or two. I have plenty of snacks, and I have plenty of food to make a couple salads, and pita sandwiches while at work.

    2) Fitness: I workout in my living room for 20-30 min in the AM before my shift. Even if it's a couple sets of push ups, crunches, jumping jacks, and squats, it gets my blood flowing and helps wake me up.

    If I can't wake up in time, I'll do it after work while I watch TV. There are days where I've done my cardio in the AM before work, and weights in th PM after work.

    On my OFF days, I set aside an hour to go to the gym. Definitely a good day to get in weights and cardio.

    If I have a full day of errands, again I'll workout at home if need be but off days are definitely workout days. I bought an exercise bike off Craigslist for super cheap & I have a couple sets of dumbbells, some DVDs, and On Demand has a huge selection of exercise videos.

    It doesn't hurt that I work in a BUSY. BUSY ER. I'm running around for 12 hours, so I wear a pedometer to count miles, steps, and calories I burn each shift.

    I gotta keep my mind and body healthy, and exercise is my stress relief. It can be done.
    UmmIbrahim and NurseFrustrated like this.
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    I workout on my days off and I might sneak in a quick 15 or 20 minute run after a shift, if I'm doing consecutive shifts. I think the worst thing you can do is not to do anything no matter how tired you are. Drag yourself out and just do it. You'll feel better for it. I also believe that you'll be able to handle a 12 hr. shift much better when your fit.
    shannarini71 likes this.
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    I have lost 23 pounds in the past year by working out on the 4 days that I have off I do a variety of excersizes walking, cardio, pilates or yoga as well as targeting toning movements. I do find that I have more energy i do spend my days off running housework and errands etc.... But I just try to do it either first thing in the morning, while drinking sips of coffee hey it gets mer energized! ha ha or as soon as I drop my youngest off of school.

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