Night shift workers: How regular exercise could save your job and health

Working the night shift comes with challenges, from disrupted sleep patterns to increased health risks. However, a recent study suggests that regular exercise could mitigate these risks and preserve job performance and health [1].

Night shift work is associated with a range of health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders. These risks are often attributed to disrupted circadian rhythms and lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of physical activity.

In the study published in Communications Biology, researchers investigated the impact of exercise on night shift workers’ health and job performance. They recruited a group of night shift workers and divided them into two groups: one group engaged in regular exercise, while the other group did not change their exercise habits.

Over several weeks, the researchers assessed various health markers and job performance indicators in both groups. They found that the group participating in regular exercise significantly improved in several key areas compared to the sedentary group.

One notable finding was the improvement in sleep quality among the exercising group. Night shift work often disrupts sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation and fatigue [2].

However, regular exercise appeared to help regulate sleep patterns and promote more profound, restorative sleep.

Also, the exercising group demonstrated better cognitive function and alertness during their shifts. This is crucial for night shift workers who need to maintain focus and productivity despite working during non-traditional hours.

On the health front, participants who engaged in regular exercise showed reduced levels of inflammation and improved metabolic health compared to their sedentary counterparts. These improvements are particularly significant given the heightened risk of metabolic disorders among night shift workers.

The study’s findings highlight the importance of incorporating regular exercise into the lifestyle of night shift workers. While the demands of shift work can make it challenging to prioritize exercise, the benefits are clear: better sleep, enhanced cognitive function and improved overall health.

So, what types of exercise are most beneficial for night shift workers? The researchers suggest combining aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, with strength training.

Incorporating exercise into shift workers’ routines, before or after a shift, can help offset the adverse effects of working irregular hours [3].

The study highlights the potential of exercise as a practical and effective intervention for mitigating the health risks associated with night shift work. By prioritizing exercise, night shift workers can safeguard their health and enhance their job performance and overall wellbeing in the long run.

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-024-05962-8#Abs1
[2] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/shift-work-disorder#
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2784228/

Photograph: YuriArcursPeopleimages/Envato
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