Research published recently suggests that in the UK National Health Service (NHS) a quarter of nurses are obese, rising to almost half among those over 45. 

UK Survey Exposes Night Shift Health Effects

A London South Bank University and Edinburgh Napier University report has exposed the huge problem of obesity in the NHS

The universities’ team looked at data from more than 20,000 working-age adults in the Health Survey for England between 2008 and 2012. They found that a third of unregistered care home workers and nursing assistants were found to have a Body

Mass Index (BMI) which classed them as overweight.

The survey split the health workers into four groups: nurses; other healthcare professionals (doctors, dentists and physiotherapists); unregistered care workers and people employed in non-health-related jobs.

422 nurses were polled with 25.1% found to be obese, with a BMI of more than 30.

Among those aged 45 and over the figure rose to 47.1%.

Of the 736 classed as unregistered health care workers, 31.9% were obese, as were 14.4 per cent of other health professionals.

In the general population surveyed, the obesity rate was 23.5%.

Deeply Worrying Trend for NHS Nurses

The authors of the report stated that the obesity rate for nurses was ‘deeply worrying’. Responding to the report, The Royal College of Nursing said nurses can struggle to make healthy choices ‘due to long hours, shift work and stress’.
It has stated that it is working on a ‘Healthy Workplace, Healthy You’ initiative.

Staying Healthy on the Nightshift

Anyone doing working nights or on regularly shift work knows how difficult it can be to stick to a healthy schedule.

Shift workers are more likely to eat irregularly, unhealthily, skip meals and probably find it hard to fit in exercise.

As the report shows, shift workers are more at risk of weight gain and heart disease than those who work set daily hours.

For those who are regular shift workers, getting enough sleep and eating wholesome foods can make working shifts easier on the body and can improve overall health.

But there are some simple tips that can also help you stay fitter and healthier when working the most difficult shifts this winter.

1. Stock Up On Healthy Foods

Have healthy foods and snacks readily available both at home and at work. The nightshift slump that takes place around 3-4am is the result of lower sugar levels in the body. It’s then that the craving for high fat food, and sugary snacks kicks in. By having alternative, healthy options available you reduce the likelihood of hitting the vending machine in a desperate search for chocolate.

2. Be Prepared

Preparing meals before starting work is the key to eating healthy. Cook as much as you can beforehand so that all you have to do is heat up your food when you get home or wake up later on. By having food available and ready to eat, you are less likely to want comfort food after a rough shift.

3. Create a Routine and Stick to it

Even if you are working nights, you should still be eating three main meals a day. The closer you can eat at ‘regular’ mealtimes, the better!It is better not to eat large meals during the night shift, so try eating breakfast as soon as you get home, lunch when you wake up and dinner before you start work. Sticking to this eating pattern day by day can help your body get into a routine and help your metabolism to run more smoothly if it has regular feeding times. Try not to skip meals, this will only slow down your metabolism and leave you feeling tired and grumpy.

4. Cut Down Caffeine

It’s easy to think that coffee and energy drinks will keep you going, especially throughout the night. But caffeine and sugar rich drinks are not healthy options. Replace them with natural foods that can give you energy, such as an apple. Limiting the amount of coffee you drink can also help you sleep more regularly when you get home from the shift. By following an eating pattern, you can gain most of your energy through healthy eating and having a consistent sleep schedule. It can take a while to implement, but your body will thank you for it.

6. Try to Keep Up Exercise … When You Can

Sometimes difficult to fit in, depending on what your job is. But simple exercises throughout the shift can help enormously. Instead of sitting down for long periods of time, try standing. Find stairs and walk up and down them a few times during your shift. Additionally, squats or stretches can have a massive effect and may also help you get better quality of sleep when you get home.

With Christmas upon us, and healthy eating not high on everyone’s agenda, it is worth trying to keep some of these tips to make sure shift workers don’t fall into the obesity trap.

We wish you all a very healthy and happy Christmas from the My Shift Planner Team.