Exercise and Rotational Shift Work

  1. I work 12 hour shifts with a mix of days and nights. I typically work three 12 hour shifts in a row ( day, night, night OR day, day, night) followed by 4 or 5 days off.

    I have been chronically exhausted for the last year and my exercise routine has definitely suffered. My doctor keeps telling me that I need to be exercising daily but I am finding this impossible with my work schedule! I work on a busy inpatient oncology unit where I am running around on my feet for 12 hours. I walk 10 minutes from my home to the hospital and I walk my dog 20-30 minutes either before or after work (although walking my dog isn't really exercise). Taking the stairs to sneak in extra exercise on work days isn't really an option because it's 21 flights of stairs to my unit.

    Most days after working all I want to do is crash on the couch. And when I work two night shifts in a row I am completely out of commission on my first day off.

    I really do believe in the power of exercise to improve overall wellbeing, energy levels, and mood, I'm just not sure how to accomplish this in real life.

    I would love to hear how you manage to stick to a regular exercise routine with shift work!
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    About nursingmymind

    Joined: Jun '14; Posts: 10
    from CA


  3. by   JadedCPN
    First let me say, your schedule is horrible in my opinion! Assuming that is not your preference, nobody should be forced to rotate shifts within the same week! That alone is going to be a major cause of your exhaustion. Years ago when I first started, I rotated between 3-11pm and 11p-7a but stuck with one shift for the week before rotating to the next. I hated nights when I had to rotate, but loved (and still do) straight nights as I discovered I could function better.

    Some people are in the gym at 4am before their shift, and that works for them - I can't do that. My suggestion based on what works for me is that I don't try to workout on my work days unless its my last of three in a row. When you factor in your 12.5 hour shift, time to get ready, time for your round trip commute, and of course sleeping time, there is little time left in the day. So I give myself a "freepass" for my three days of work and make up for it by committing to a really good workout the other four days.