Nurse health

Nurse Health – Work Out Whilst You Work

Nursing involves high physical demands and has been associated with high rates of musculoskeletal disorders, particularly those affecting the neck, shoulder and back. Nurses typically spend the majority of their shift walking or standing for long hours, with at least 1 out of 3 experiencing job burnout due to high workload and stress.

With the above being said, 46.3% of nurses were found to not engage in regular physical activity despite the active nature of their role. This can have a serious effect on nurse health!

Why Nurses Need To Focus on Exercise

Exercise can trigger the release of ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain such as serotonin which can reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and stress, dopamine which assists in improving mood and memory, and endorphins which provide feelings of euphoria or happiness.

Along with the mental health benefits of regular physical activity has can also:

  • Improve sleep quality
  • Improve immunity
  • Improve focus and mood
  • Improve bone health
  • Provide pain management
  • Improve quality of life
  • Promote weight loss and weight maintenance.


Guidelines recommend engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise through any given week or equivalent to 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity. This equates to at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

What types of exercise should you consider to improve nurse health?


There are different types of exercise, and each has their own benefits.

  • Strength and Resistance Training
    Helps improve muscle and bone strength along with muscle endurance.
    Examples include: Body weight exercises, machine-based exercises, loaded exercises: such as walking or squatting with a heavy backpack or book) and resistance bands.
  • Flexibility/Mobility
    Improves joint range of motion.
    Examples include: Stretching, also squats, lunges, Yoga, heel raises.
  • Cardiovascular Exercise
    Improves stamina and cardiorespiratory fitness.
    Examples include: Walking, running, swimming, team sports, tennis, stair walking, cross-trainers, high intensity interval training.
  • Balance and Core
    Improves balance, coordination, and core strength and stability.
    Examples include: Standing on one leg, single leg exercises, planks, Pilates, Yoga, pelvic tilts, dead bugs and etc. You can also strengthen your core through strength and resistance training via compound movements; using more than 1 muscle group.


Keeping Active on your Feet

Step to it!
Remember, a little bit done often is better than nothing, so take advantage and aim to do at least 10,000 steps during your shift measure by a your fitness tracker or smart phone.

Seek for opportunities to exercise on your daily commute.
For example: If you drive, try parking your car a little bit further, or try walking or riding a bike to part of the way to work or the full distance depending on where you live.

Use your surroundings to your advantage.
If you usually use the lift, try to take the stairs, even if it means walking up to one floor before you take a lift the rest of the way. If there is a bench, you can do push ups. If you have a chair, then you can do some squats.

Group lunch breaks.
Getting together with other nurses before a shift, after a shift or during lunch break to go for a walk, or do some group exercises such as stretching, or even yoga based or body weight programs.

Pelvic Tilts on chairs.
Inhale, then exhale and tuck your tailbone under (you will feel the chair move forwards slightly), then exhale and bring the chair back. Try to not lean on the back of the chair so that you can work on your core stability.

Who can hold a plank for the longest?
Whether you are on your toes, on the side or on your knees, you can make this fun buy adding some competitiveness with friends.

Stretching (holding for 15s)
Chest stretch: Place both arms behind your head and movement your elbows back as far as you can. Another way to do this is by making a 90-degree angle with your arm and placing it on a door  frame with palm facing forwards. Here you can gently move into the open space whilst leaving your arm up.
Calf stretch: Start by resting your hands up on the wall at shoulder level. Stand near a wall with one foot in front of the other with the front knee slightly bent, and back leg straight. If you don’t feel a stretch yet, take your back leg out slightly further until you feel a stretch in your calf.

A little goes a long way
Whilst you are waiting for paperwork on lunch break or standing, try one of these: 10 squats, 10 calf raises, 10 push ups, 10 lunges, 10 tricep dips or a 30 second plank.

Want more professional help?
If you are currently living with an injury or need some more tailored advice when it comes to keeping active whilst at work, feel free to contact an Accredited Exercise Professional near you. Our experts are passionate about improving nurse health.


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