Quick, Easy Exercises Busy Nurses Can Do During Long Work Shifts

July 12, 2022

Shauna Smith

Registered Nurse, RN to MSN Student

Young Asian nurse sitting and stretching her right arm in the air

Studies show daily exercise helps you be healthier, both physically and mentally. Exercise boosts your mood, and reduces stress and anxiety. But nurses and students usually feel like they’re too busy to exercise. If you’re both a busy nurse and a busy student? Forget it.

However, it’s incorrect to assume your exercise needs to be some big, time-consuming ordeal for you to get the positive effects. You also don’t need to do it at a certain time of day. Supportive research continues to emerge claiming that many small bouts of exercise throughout the day may accomplish the same benefits as one big bout!

Take the first step toward easy, everyday exercise by finding your baseline. Utilize a Fitbit, Apple Watch or any other activity-monitoring app you prefer. Document your steps, flights climbed and calories for three days, just maintaining a regular routine. This information will serve as your starting point for future comparisons and allow you to set reasonable goals that get results. For example, burning a mere 100 calories extra a day could equal losing ten pounds over the course of a year. Your reason for exercise may not be weight loss, but it’s a good illustration of how impactful just a little purposeful movement can be to your long-term well being.

With that in mind, here are tips on how nurses can weave short rounds of exercise into their shifts.

Short Exercises for a 12-Hour Shift

  • Every hour on the hour do 10 squats.
  • Every hour on the hour do 10 wall push-ups.
  • Every hour on the half hour go up and down one flight of stairs. When you count one flight of stairs as just going one direction, this will give you 24 flights during your shift. Considering that you burn about 0.17 calories for every step up and about 0.05 calories for every step down, it’s obvious these little steps add up to big gains.

Short Exercises for 30-Minute Lunch Breaks

  • Strengthen muscles with resistance bands. They are inexpensive and easy to store in your pocket.
  • Find a bit of room to jump rope. Not only is a jump rope inexpensive and easy to store, but ten minutes of skipping acquires the same health benefits as a 45-minute run.
  • Wall sit. On the first day, hold the wall sit for just 10 seconds. Challenge yourself by adding 10 seconds to your hold every subsequent day.

Little changes make a big difference. I encourage you to implement quick, small things that will add up to an overall healthier lifestyle and find a friend who will hold you accountable. Most importantly, ditch the all or nothing mentality! You’ll be happier and more productive if you do.

For a nursing program that fits a busy RN’s life, explore American College of Education’s RN to MSN program.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Shauna Smith
Shauna Smith, Registered Nurse, RN to MSN Student

Shauna is a registered nurse living in Cleveland, Ohio. She loves health, nutrition, and living the mom life to its fullest.

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