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KEY POINTS:

1. Physical activity can help combat jet lag and travel fatigue by boosting your physical and mental energy, and by helping you to adjust your circadian rhythm.

2. Exercising outside in the morning is the best way to synchronize your internal clock to your new time zone. 

3. If you're too tired after a shift, even a short stretching routine in your hotel room or walk helps - just get moving!

You’ve got a lot going on: work, family, friends and hobbies like gardening, writing, fishing, cooking, whatever you’re into. Not to mention that Netflix series you’re dialled into. So after a long shift – or a long week – exercise might be the last thing on your mind. 

While you might not feel like going straight from the airport to the treadmill, here are several reasons why physical activity can help with shift work, travel fatigue, and the jet lag that comes with longer continental or intercontinental flights:

1. Physical activity not only improves physical function but also concentration, alertness and mood. So if you’re feeling groggy after a shift but want to fit in some personal activities (dinner out, time with spouse, playing with kids), exercise (like a light walk, jog, bike or yoga) will actually boost your physical and mental energy. 

2. Physical activity of any sort that coincides with bright light exposure (ideally daylight) is a time giver – an external factor capable of regulating internal rhythms. That means that exercise can help induce phase changes in your circadian rhythm, helping you adjust after work shifts that don’t fit the nine-five norm. In other words, use bright-light exercise to get you back on a regular 24-hour cycle if you’ve been working different shifts.

3. If you do travel afar for pleasure or end up working shifts that cross many time zones, working up a light sweat in the morning as the sun comes up in your new time zone might be helpful. Current studies suggest gentle exercise in the morning of a new time zone may be effective in synchronizing your internal rhythms to the local time faster.

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What type of exercise should you do if you’re out of synch from shift work or travel?

Exercising in the morning outdoors is the best option. The physical activity in combination with natural light will tell your body that it’s time to wake up. In a study by M. Shiota and colleagues, pilots who performed moderate to heavy exercise before and after an eight-hour time difference flight were better adapted to the local time zone. 

Obviously, you’re not generally crossing so many time zones in your current position. But the study lets us know that exercise plus daylight can make you more alert and wakeful when you feel draggy after a shift but want to get on with all the other things in life that you enjoy.

If exercising outdoors is not an option, you can try this 20-minute body weight workout. It will get your blood pumping and activate your muscles: https://www.thewellsgroup.co/20-min-base-training-workout. It doesn’t require any equipment so you can do it at home, at a hotel gym, or even in your hotel room.

The important thing is to just get moving. If you’re too tired to do anything strenuous, even a walk outside will help. And make sure you exercise during the day rather than right before bed, which can perk you up when you need that restoring sleep.

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation.