Sheila Olson, of fitsheila.com
Millions of workers in the U.S. keep the country going after dark, but their health may suffer in the long-term.
Who works the night shift?
Historically, overnight work has been limited to two categories: vital services and manufacturing.
Vital services include ER nurses and doctors, police and firemen. Manufacturing jobs run the gamut from early morning bakers to assembly line technicians.
With the modern addition of a digital infrastructure, more and more white-collar jobs are moving to the midnight hour. While this means more flexibility for the workers and their families, the benefits they get now may be offset by issues down the road.
Mental and physical health at risk
According to Chron contributor J.E.Cornett, night workers are more at-risk of certain health problems than their daylight-dwelling coworkers. This includes a higher likelihood of being in an accident and failing to get enough sleep.
The latter of these issues is a side effect of fighting the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is the biggest danger of those who work overnight. Disruptions to the body’s desire to sleep at night and wake during the days has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Mentally, people who work overnight hours may be more at risk of depression, anxiety and poor self-image thanks to chronic sleep deprivation.
Reset the clock
While science is working on a way to control circadian rhythm, researchers have yet to make it happen. Until then, it’s up to individuals to find methods that help them sleep so they can remain effective at work and, more importantly, stay healthy.
Environmental factors at home are the first and most obvious elements to consider.
A restful bedroom environment can mean the difference between poor sleep and a solid eight hours of rest. But sleeping during the day is difficult since the body is conditioned to move in the light.
Angie’s List offers a few simple tips for encouraging sleep. These include adding blackout shades and comfortable bedding.
Those with family members at home during the day or who live in close proximity to noisy neighbors may also want to add a sound machine to their bedroom.
Even with changes to the bedroom, many night shift workers find it difficult to get enough sleep. Fortunately, a monophasic sleep cycle, which is a traditional seven to nine-hour block of uninterrupted sleep, isn’t the only option.
One solution to combat health issues associated with sleep deprivation is to practice biphasic sleep, meaning to sleep in a series of two sleep-wake sessions throughout the day.
Sleeping this way allows for multiple REM cycles and is a habit the body can adapt to fairly easily.
Sleep and health experts also recommend practicing good sleep hygiene, which means to set a schedule and stick to it. Eating well and getting enough exercise also contributes to the ability to achieve optimum sleep.
Issues that hinder sleep
Stress, pressure to get chores taken care of, and desire to spend time with family are all reasons cited for poor daytime sleep.
But issues such as watching the clock, drinking coffee less than six hours before bed and failing to establish a wind down routine can also play a part in an inability to get to sleep.
In summary, night shift workers are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting enough sleep. But, since sleep remains vital to overall health and wellness, ensuring daily sleep needs are met is imperative.
Shift workers are encouraged to find a sleep cycle that works for their needs and take preemptive measures to ensure they are allowed to sleep uninterrupted during their preferred times.
People will sell you whatever they think sounds good in order to take your money: "5 Steps to Skinny Thighs", "4 Weeks to Six Pack Abs", "101 Ways to Lose Weight".
I really wish these people would switch to selling used cars, because most of us can't be fooled into buying a car with brakes that don't work.
However, many of us fall victim to one of the biggest American paradoxes of the 21st century, we are an unhealthy nation obsessed with health.
The list of fad diets available to you on the internet or in the form of books should be a downright crime. I'm going to be blunt, but why do we think we can have a healthy body without putting in real work?
Where many of us go wrong, is that we've been programmed to believe we need to look a certain way and get caught constantly comparing ourselves to that unrealistic image.
We start believing that I need or have to lose weight to look like the actor or actress I saw on this or that ad, or that I want a beach body, six pack, or to fit into my wedding dress.
What we don't realize, is that these vanity driven goals are the first step towards failure. How do you think the health industry makes millions? It's messed up, but it's largely off of your desperate need to look a certain way and cyclical failure in doing so.
I'll let you in on the secret these companies and gyms don't want you to learn: if you want to achieve all these outcomes, then you need to reprogram your mindset, and here's how.
Go Against What Society Wants
Everyone is a little vanity driven, I totally get it because at times I am too, it's what makes us human. Yet, what society has placed premium on for years now, is for you to look a certain way. What you should want, is to feel a certain way.
Through education and my own experiences working with my clients, it is my firm belief that if we reprioritized our values and placed health and the pursuit of happiness a step above appearance, our goals would be easier achieved.
Look more closely:
Without your health you can't be your best for your family, friends, partner, etc., and in reality, happiness is one byproduct of good health, it leads to lower stress levels, more energy, better hair, skin, and nails, more confidence, higher sex drive, and so on. Ah yes, just a few ingredients that help to cultivate happiness.
So why are we focusing on appearance first? Appearing healthy does not mean you necessarily are, just look at the misconstrued reality Social Media and Photoshop can create.
Your happiness has to be genuine, social media doesn't know when you are lying to them, but at the end of the day, you do.
Go Towards What You Want
So how about this, imagine your goals as they pertain to health, because for all of us that can be very different.
For me, I love to wake up feeling stronger, more mobile, in less pain, and more energized throughout the day. What results as a natural byproduct of these things is a happier me and healthy body.
The health industry is smart, they also don't see you as a person, but as a consumer. This is a disservice to you, it does not have to be all about pant size, body fat percentage, or looking like the Calvin Klein or swimsuit models you see in ads.
See through it! YOU are important, not the bottom-line of the supplement companies and gyms trying to take advantage of your human weakness.
No More "Shoulds"
My final take away, try not to be so self-focused on this image you have in your head of how you should look because you will likely venture down a dark path of disappointment and unhappiness.
The worst outcome? You create an unhealthy relationship with food, labeling them as bad or good, and view exercise as punishment. If not you, someone you know.
I "Won't" Power Challenge
What is the "stickiest" habit in your life? What would you like to give up or do less of because it's undermining your health, happiness, or success?
I "Want" Power Challenge
What is the most important long-term goal you'd like to focus your energy on? What immediate "want" is most likely to distract you or tempt you away from this goal?
Many of us fall victim to the distorted societal view of fitness and taking shortcuts to get there.
If we actually reversed the common way of thinking, from appearance driven work to health driven work, ironically, appearance would be a natural, and more likely outcome.
Motivation is a tricky and fickle thing, and making sure we are selecting the right motivating factors can have tremendous impact on our long-term success. Take on the "Want, Won't, and Will Challenge" inspired by The Willpower Instinct, and start reprogramming your mindset today.
McGonigal, K. (2012). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York, NY: Avery.
We live in a day and age much different than our parents, in which childhood obesity has increased 3 fold since the 1970's. This means that one in five kids are dealing with not just being overweight, but having a BMI in the 95th percentile for age and sex.
Most of our attention has been drawn to this topic and getting kids active in general, thus begging the question of how young is too young to start lifting?
Regardless of their present fitness state, getting kids involved in activity is a minimum requirement to building a healthy life. The next goal should be getting them involved in a structured fitness program in which they can learn how to properly move.
The activity kids do doesn't matter just as long as they enjoy it, and the beautiful part of childhood is that there are many opportunities to be active. It is imperative kids establish healthy habits like moving every day, early on.
As a parent, teacher, coach, or mentor of any sorts, the youth in our lives look up to us to model good examples for them. That being said, get moving with your kids.
Don't be a shuttle or sideline parent who financially provides for, and physically transports, their kids to and from activities. Instead, take your kiddo to, and share with them, the activities you enjoy.
Picking the right programs
Now, there is some common sense that comes along with this. If things are taught and done the right way, your kiddo will come out for the better; however, the risk stands that if they are improperly taught or unsupervised, they could obviously end up getting hurt.
Having them work with fitness professionals, so that the professional can appropriately scale movements to their age, will always be the best bet. A generally important rule in regards to this, is only body-weight until 8, as the National Institute of Health recommends that kids do not work with weight until they are at least 8 years old.
There are great programs out there to help make this easy for you as a parent, one of which is CrossFit Kids, which has been around since 2004 and works with ages as young as 3.
Younger kids learn how to properly do basic movement patterns such as squatting, running, lunging, push ups, etc. and older kids will work with light weights that do not fully tax muscles.
A final note in program selection, is that the child sees an activity as "play" and something enjoyable, not as a form of punishment, which can be very counterproductive.
Enhanced Bone Density
Regular participation in an exercise program actually improves bone density in children and adolescents much in the same way it does for adults. Our bones respond in a similar fashion as our muscles when put under extra stress induced by weight bearing activities. This response increased tissue formation, i.e. stronger, more ossified bones.¹
With weight training, young athletes also are less likely to incur injuries. In fact, they are less likely to get hurt lifting (properly) than they are when playing sports, as studies by the National Sports & Conditioning Association show that the forces placed on a child’s joints are higher during a sport-like activity than during resistance training.²
Higher Functioning Nervous System
Resistance training better prepares a child for all types of activity. This is largely in part due to the accelerated development of the nervous system (i.e. myelin pathways) and indicates that our more "naturally" gifted athletes most likely were dabbling in all types of movements from a younger than average age.³
To better understand this, think of throwing an object. You’ve probably thrown with your dominant arm hundreds of times, but what happens when you try throwing with your non-dominant arm?
1. Baechle, T. & Earle, R. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition. National Strength and Conditioning Association.
2. Baechle, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition, 136.
3. Coyle, D. (2009). The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, it’s Grown. Here’s How. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.
4. Coyle, The Talent Code.
Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle tends to be easier said than done — all too often, there feels like there are just too many roadblocks standing in the way. Exercise, for example, is often viewed as a chore that requires long hours at the gym to gain any results.
Those who seek to avoid the gym and still lose weight often try some new diet fad, only to find out that it is a scam. Knowing these blockades exist cause a lot of people to bypass the act of even trying. After all, sitting on the couch is more comfortable than sitting in a squat.
People are creatures of habit, good or bad.
The present routine you have grown accustomed to took a while to develop, and altering it will take time and effort. Fortunately, there are ways to streamline the process and make new healthy habits last.
A great starting point is to focus on your present mindset. Really think about how you view fitness and lifestyle change.
Do you have a scarcity or abundance mindset?
For example, do you see incorporating a healthy lifestyle to be something you don't think you have enough time or energy for (scarcity)? Or something that will give you more productive energy and time in your day (abundance)?
Once you start progressing toward your new healthy life, you may find going all in on day one to be difficult. This is normal. To avoid the shock of such a sudden shift, try to introduce small changes periodically.
By going at a slower pace, progress will be steady and lasting. Work with yourself to find a habit you are comfortable keeping. Each small change you make to your daily routine will add up in the long run.
Finding an exercise that works
A healthy lifestyle includes some form of exercise, be it walking or push-ups. If you despise going to the gym, try going walking in your neighborhood, setting up a workout space in your own home, or bring some fun tools like resistance bands to a local park. You can find numerous free workouts under "Training" to help meet your needs!
Depending on your budget, your home gym can have equipment as simple as balance balls, free weights and resistance bands or as complex as a treadmill or elliptical machine.
The important elements that make exercising worthwhile lie in the actual act of physical movement. This does not mean that you have to be drenched in sweat to make progress.
When exercising, the goal is to be active enough to get your heart rate up. The amazing benefits of elevating your heart rate at least thirty minutes a day may be felt instantly, and can become very habit-forming.
Walking is a great habit to include in your new healthy lifestyle, but in general terms of "calories in, calories out", it is vitally important to remember exercise that doesn’t elevate your heart rate will make progress sluggish, as calorie burn overtime is far lower than that at an elevated heart rate.
If you are going to go this route, remember that it will take almost as long to shed those excess pounds as it did to put them on. Regardless, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised to find improvement in the way you feel and how soundly you begin to sleep at night.
Be Patient with yourself
Keeping a healthy lifestyle is not something you can simply do overnight. It takes practice, repetition and patience. Keep in mind, without consistency there cannot be long-lasting change.
One day, those seemingly-small alterations will transform into the long-term lifestyle change. Imagine it like a few drops of water filling a bucket overtime. If you don't put the work in, there will be very little water, and that water may even evaporate. But, consistently add to the bucket and before you know it, it's full.
There will be bumps in the road that knock things off course-- vacations, illness, holidays, etc. It may be quite tempting to dive into binging on holiday treats or sharing a cigarette with a loved one.
Yet, when faced with such adversity, focus on the progress you have made and shift focus to your goals. View the temptation as something that stalls your progress or pollutes your lake!
The perception of a bad habit preventing you from doing what you want, rather than something you cannot have, will help you desire it less. Repeatedly saying no to the temptation will improve your ability to resist it in the future.
As your mental fortitude grows stronger, the healthier, more confident version of yourself will start to emerge.
Before you know it, all of the roadblocks will be more like speed-bumps or roundabouts, still cropping up now and again, but completely navigable.
Chocolate and beets? Get your finger off the back button, let me explain! Trust me, if you are looking for a sneaky way to squeeze some nutrition into your diet, this is where it's at.
I know what you're thinking, beets taste like dirt, unless you're weird and can eat them plain like me, so how could they possibly make a cupcake taste good?
For one, they add density and moisture not found in any baking mix or unhealthy alternative, not to mention a very pretty color that your kids (or cats) are sure to be intrigued by. Best of all, the chocolate almost completely masks the flavor of the beet.
Why are beets something you want to incorporate, even if sneakily, into your diet? Let's check out some of the amazing benefits.
Reduces Blood Pressure
The same oxygen boosting effect that occurs in athletes can benefit the average person as well by dilating their blood vessels and thereby lowering blood pressure.³
High stress job? Maybe it's time to up that beet intake.
High concentrations of betaine
Betaine is the amino acid found in beets that can help reduce risk of heart disease by lowering the levels of an amino acid that, at high levels, puts you at risk for artery damage and heart disease.
FYI betaine is also found in substantial amounts in quinoa and spinach.
It also helps the liver out big time by increasing detoxifying enzymes in the body and preventing, as well as reducing, fat accumulation in the liver. This is good for your next weekend drinking binge.⁴
Essential Nutrient Gold Mine
Beets are chock full of B vitamins, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, and potassium, to name a few. Stop wasting money on multi-vitamins.
Helps you poo
Thanks to all the fiber in a whole beet, you won't have any problems on the potty.
"Heaven forbid people should have to change their diet to improve their health."
Flourless Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe
I love this one because you can throw everything into a blender. Costco currently has cooked prepackaged beets, which completely expedite the process of cleaning, cooking, and peeling your own!
1. Bailey SJ, Winyard P, Vanhatalo A, Blackwell JR, Dimenna FJ, Wilkerson DP, Tarr J, Benjamin N, Jones AM. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Oct;107(4):1144-55. Epub 2009 Aug 6.
2, 3, 4. FACLM, M. G. (n.d.). Whole Beets vs. Juice for Improving Athletic Performance. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://nutritionfacts.org/video/whole-beets-vs-juice-for-improving-athletic-performance/