Getting (and staying) in shape is hard enough, but for nurses, it seems like an almost impossible task. With not enough hours in the day or gas in the metaphorical tank, it can be extremely difficult for nurses to make their own health a priority. This is pretty counterintuitive since nurses are concerned with other people’s health all day long!
But the truth of the matter is that obesity and chronic health problems are becoming more and more of an issue for full-time nurses and something needs to be done immediately. Nurses are on their feet all day long, walking from room to room, and generally have poor posture while doing so. Repetitive motions like lifting and bending can put strain on unprepared muscles and joints. And while it seems that there is a lot of physical activity going on at work, it isn’t necessarily effective for strengthening these body parts. In truth, actual exercise is the best way to stay safe and working well for longer. Here are a few of the best exercises for nurses that will help with our specific bodily needs.
When Should I Exercise?
Before we get into the actual exercises, preparing to get a good workout routine is a great first step. The recommended amount of exercise is 3-5 times per week for at least 30 minutes. Those 30 minutes should be active exercise where your heart rate is up, and your blood is pumping. You’ll want to include some warmup and cool down, about ten minutes each, so you should consider your workout to be about 45 minutes to an hour, with at least thirty minutes of that being pretty active.
Now, on to the exercises!
- Sun Salutations
If you are familiar with yoga at all, you’ll recognize this as the basic movement that you usually would start a yoga class with. If you have no interest in yoga, this is still a really great exercise to get your heart flowing in the morning without a lot of impact on your joints. Here’s how to do it:
Start by standing straight, shoulders back and hips tucked. Then, lift your arms slowly straight into the air above your head and reach high. Then, begin folding at your waist, bring your arms down with you to touch the floor. Don’t worry if you can’t reach all the way, just let the weight of the top half of your body hang down. Next, put your hands on the floor, bending your knees gently if you need to. Walk your legs back while holding yourself up with your arms. You should now be in a “plank” position. Lower your body to the floor gently and push your top half up in an “upward dog” pose. Then, lower back down and push your body up into “downward dog” – your feet should be flat on the ground along with your hands, and your rear end should be up in the air. Your body should form an upside-down V. Finally, walk your feet up to meet your hands and unfold your body, raising your hands into the air as you stand up, then bringing them back down. Repeat this exercise at least 3 more times.
- High Knees
Stretch out your glutes and thighs by doing some high knee exercises. You’ll want to start slow but working your way up to a quicker speed will add to your cardio needs.
Begin by standing. If you need help with balance, make sure to stand next to a chair or table. Lift your right knee so that your upper and lower leg form a 90-degree angle. Try to keep your thighs parallel to the floor while lifting your leg as high as you can. Feel free to swing your opposite arm, just as if you were running. Put your right leg down and try with the left leg. Do this for 10-15 minutes. After a few times of doing this, try upping your speed!
- Walking Lunges
This is a great exercise to do if you want to get your heart rate up and improve your muscle tone on your legs. An added bonus is that this exercise is perfectly suited for those long hallways at the hospital if you find yourself working a slow night shift!
To perform the walking lunges, take a large step forward with your right leg. Make the step as big as you can to get the most out of it. If you are hesitant or have knee problems, begin with smaller steps. After you plant your foot forward, let your left knee drop almost to the floor. Then, lift yourself up again by tightening your glutes and thighs and repeat with the left leg forward. Do this at least 50 times but increase your repetitions as you feel more comfortable.
Classic pushups are an incredible exercise for nurses. This workout focuses on upper body strength, which is helpful for when you have patients that need lifting. Making sure your form is right is crucial for this exercise to work, so no cheating just to get your reps in!
First of all, if you haven’t done much upper body work lately, feel free to begin doing push-ups on your knees. This will make it a bit easier, but you’ll still want to have proper posture, otherwise you could hurt yourself. Start the exercise by lying on the floor (or kneeling), with your hands placed just under your shoulders and your elbows back by your sides. Push yourself up, focusing on keeping your core tight and your arms in. Try to keep your weight shifted forward onto your fingers or you could hurt your wrist. If you are doing this on your knees, keep your back straight and tighten that core. Then, lower yourself back down slowly, without letting your arms jut out or your hands wander away from the area under your shoulders. Repeat 10 times, working your way up each day or week.
Staying in shape is so important for nurses. With health conditions on the rise as we focus on others’ health and forget our own, it’s more important than ever to take our health into our own hands, even if that means lunging through the hospital hallways!