Chapter 12 - Physical Exercise

Learning Outcomes

After reading through this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Name the effects of physical exercise on sleep.
  • Discuss the effects of physical exercise on general health.
  • Name the benefits of physical exercise.

Establishing a routine

Many people who work non-traditional hours find it difficult to establish regular exercise routines. On average, female shift workers are 5 to 10 kg heavier than their non-shift working colleagues, while male shift workers are 10 to 12 kg heavier.

Regular, moderate exercise such as walking three to four times a week for 30 to 40 minutes can have benefits for health, regardless of age or working hours. Most people feel better for exercising. Exercise helps to relieve stress, boost your health, strengthen your immune function, and improve your muscle tone and strength. Before you begin an exercise program, talk it over with your doctor, especially if you are over 30 years of age.

Benefits of exercise

Being fit helps:

  • reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, which has a higher incidence in the shift working population
  • make you feel good
  • increase your stamina
  • you get more enjoyment from your leisure time.

Exercise can also improve sleep. Research shows that exercise taken approximately 30 to 180 minutes prior to bed can increase the amount of deep (restorative) sleep that you obtain. One study found that late night exercise before bed even increased the feeling of a good sleep the next morning and reduced the amount of daytime sleepiness.

Potential benefits of exercise may include:

  • improved sleep
  • increased energy levels
  • reduced muscle tension
  • reduced stress
  • improved muscle tone and strength
  • increased aerobic fitness (heart and lungs)
  • reduced body fat
  • improved bone density
  • increased stamina
  • improved circulation with better digestion and body functioning.


Benefits associated with different types of exercise


*****Excellent    **** Very good    *** Good    ** Poor    * Very poor
(Source: Sydney Hospital, OH&S Unit, 1996)  



What improvements could you make to your current level of physical fitness? Describe the first step you would take to achieve this.


What sort of benefits would you expect from increased fitness?



checkmark Knowledge Check

  • Explain why you should engage in some form of physical exercise.
  • Name three benefits of physical exercise.
  • What should you do before you engage in any exercise program, particularly if you are over 30 years of age?
  • What effect can physical exercise have on sleep?.
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