The definition of “work” has changed a lot in the last century. Not long ago, “work” meant laboring—moving, sweating, lifting, plowing, and a host of other physical activities. But over the past several decades, much of our work has shifted indoors and behind desks… and this doesn’t bode well for our health.
“Most of us spend about 75 percent of our day sitting or being sedentary,” warns Dr. Meredith Peddie. “This behavior has been linked to increased rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and overall mortality.”
Nurses and Medical Assistants aren’t exempt, either. One recent study noted that employees who work shifts (specifically nurses) have a much more difficult time scheduling physical activity.
None of this is new, though. We’ve known for a while that anything sedentary is bad for us. Nurses and nurse practitioners are constantly on the lookout for hypertension and lower back pain that can result from extended periods of sitting or inactivity. Resolving this issue may feel impossible, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re a nurse or healthcare professional looking to stay healthy, the following tips and recipes will help you on your journey to wellness.
1. Embrace Irregular Exercising
Look up any article on healthy living and the word that always precedes “exercise” is “regular.” Shift work has an unpredictability that makes regular exercise difficult. And when you look at the prescribed amount of regular exercise—a little more than 20 minutes a day, or just two and a half hours per week—it’s easy to come to the conclusion “why bother?” After all, if you can’t do the minimum suggested amount, anything less is a waste of time, right?
As researchers continue to study the impact of exercise on the human body, one thing keeps coming up: Something is always better than nothing.
When it comes to prolonged sitting, for example, Dr. Peddie’s research found that even short interruptions to sitting had distinctly positive impacts on a person’s health. Amazingly, neither the intensity level nor the age/weight of those monitored seemed to matter. They simply needed to get up and move more often.
Mere minutes of exercise can begin to alter your muscles’ DNA, turning on certain genes for your strength and metabolism. You’ll also get the mental boost that comes from endorphins and serotonin, both of which are released within one exercise session. Even the way your body metabolizes fat improves with just one good session of sweat—and because of this, just that one workout can improve your resistance to diabetes.
Not only does your body improve with a single exercise session, your mind and spirits do as well. That means improved focus and a decrease in stress, even if you just work out for ten minutes!
Obviously, regular exercise is still the healthiest option, but intermittent exercise certainly has its benefits as well. So the next time you finish your shift, toss your dirty scrubs, and are deciding between your workout clothes or your comfy sweatpants, remember that even a quick workout is better than none at all.
2. Register for the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Challenge
The “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation” challenge is sponsored by the American Nurses Association, and its premise is simple: By improving the health and lifestyle of all nurses, those nurses can then set a healthy example for all around them. It’s a program designed to establish the nurse as a role model for personal health.
Part of the challenge is the weight that nurses put on taking proper care of their patients. Of the nurse respondents, 68% said they put their patients’ wellbeing over their own health and safety. Many times, that means taking on longer hours, sleeping less, and settling for a diet that’s more convenient than healthy.
Nurses are natural caregivers and very hard workers. They care for their patients daily, and their drive and compassion has defined the role of nursing for decades. All of which is wonderful, of course… unless it comes at the cost of their personal and mental wellbeing.
The “Healthy Nurses, Healthy Nation” (HNHN) challenge focuses on two things:
- Improving the physical activity, sleep quality, nutrition, quality of life, and safety of nurses.
- Providing an online resource for nurses to connect with each other, educate themselves on life improvements, and cultivate “friendly competition.”
3. Prepare Easy & Healthy Portable Snacks
Whether you’re a student or a healthcare professional, you should try to consume high-protein snacks that are both healthy and portable. A great article by Healthline highlights a variety of snacks that can be eaten on a break or between classes. When you live the busy life of a nurse, a Medical Assistant, or a student, the right snacks can make all the difference!
Many are full of sugar and refined carbs, though. You don’t want to be left unsatisfied or lethargic throughout the day. If possible, you should strive to find snacks that are both nutritious and packed with protein. Not only does protein promote fullness, but it slows digestion and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorite snacks from Healthline’s list!
Nutritious Snack Ideas for Nurses
- Veggies and Yogurt Dip: You might be wondering, what, exactly, is yogurt dip? It’s usually made from yogurt, herbs, and flavorings (think dill or lemon juice). To squeeze in more protein, you can use Greek yogurt. When it comes to convenience, we suggest that you make a big batch ahead of time and spoon it into smaller containers. Here’s a recommended recipe from Healthline.
- Chia Seed Pudding: This is a tasty, healthy, and popular snack. Not only is it high in protein, but it also contains omega-3 fatty acids. According to Healthline, “Snacking on chia seeds may help lower triglyceride levels, which is important for reducing the risk of heart disease.” Here’s a great recipe you can try.
- Homemade Granola: The title of this one is important—most store-bought granola tends to be high in added sugar. Because of this, homemade granola is usually the better option. You can make it using a combination of rolled oats, nuts, seeds, and honey (or another sweetener). Thanks to its protein content, granola can make a very filling snack. Try this recipe for some magnificent granola.
- Pumpkin Seeds: This snack contains a great amount of protein, fiber, magnesium, zinc, and other nutrients. According to Healthline, they also provide “disease-fighting antioxidants, including vitamin E and carotenoids.” Curb your hunger by eating about an ounce of them raw or spiced and roasted.
- Edamame: If you’re not familiar with edamame, they are immature soybeans still in the pod. Like many of the other ideas on this list, edamame is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and they also make for a quick n’ easy snack. Try a cup of steamed edamame, which can often be cooked in the microwave and found at many stories. Simply cook it and place it in a portable container, and you’re good to go!
- Cottage Cheese: Another filling snack that can be eaten on the go, a half cup of cottage cheese has about 14 grams of protein and a variety of nutrients. As stated by Healthline, these include important ones like calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin. To make your snack even more delicious, add fruits, nuts, or a combo of both.
- Nut Butter: The ultimate portable snack, nut butter is full of nutrients and protein. In the U.S., many stores carry single-serving packets of nut butter, making it easy to grab one before you head out the door. One common brand is Justin’s, which offers snacks made of peanut butter, almond butter, and hazelnut butter.
- Protein Shakes: Even though it’s usually ideal to get your protein from whole food sources, protein shakes can be a great alternative when you need a little something extra. For example, some scoops of protein powder provide roughly 20 grams of protein. There are countless recipes for protein shakes, all of which can be found with a simple Google search. A quick base recipe tends to involve protein powder, milk or juice, ice, and fruit.
Whether you’re a nurse, studying to be a nurse, or starting your nurse training, we hope you’ll take a look at the HNHN challenge and try some of the healthy snacks we mentioned. You’re our front lines out there, and we need you in the best shape possible—mentally and physically.
If you are interested in becoming a nurse or a Medical Assistant, contact Unitek College today for more information about classes, current schedules, and opportunities.