As a nurse, you have probably advised hundreds of patients of the importance of exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You might not be very good at following your own advice, though. Working as a nurse is exhausting. At the end of a long shift, diving into a challenging workout probably does not seem like your idea of fun. Feeling this way makes sense, but you know better than anyone else that daily exercise is vital for your overall health. Even when you spend your entire shift on your feet, it is not the same as getting in a solid workout.
Fortunately, getting daily exercise doesn’t have to mean spending hours at the gym or jogging for miles every day before heading into work. In fact, there are lots of simple ways to incorporate daily exercise into your routine. There are even activities you can do while still wearing your favorite scrub shoes at work. Read on to discover a few daily exercises that all nurses should perform.
Why Daily Exercise Is Vital for Nurses
Spending eight (or more) hours on your feet, lifting patients and doing other physically demanding tasks while at work may seem like more than enough exercise. Unfortunately, it isn’t. If you aren’t doing other exercises to strengthen your body, these activities could cause physical harm.
As a nurse, you need to build and maintain both strength and endurance. The job is more physically demanding than many people realize. And if you are not exercising regularly, your body may not be up to the job. Staying physically fit can help you avoid injury and make it through your shift without feeling exhausted. Keep in mind, too, that regular physical activity is good for your mental health and can help you overcome stress and anxiety.
So, what exercises should you be doing as a nurse? Here are a few of the best options:
Even if you walk miles while you are at work, it’s never a bad idea to go for a walk when you get home or even take a stroll around the block while on break. Walking is one of the least strenuous aerobic activities, and the benefits are numerous. It gives you a much-needed mental health boost, increases energy levels and lowers stress levels.
Lifting patients and helping them walk puts strain on your muscles. If you aren’t strong enough to support them, you risk serious injury both to the patient and yourself. Adding lunges to your workout routine strengthens several important muscles, including your hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps, and it ensures that your body is up to the job of lifting and otherwise assisting your patients.
To do a perfect lunge, extend one leg forward. Then, slowly lower your hips until your legs form a 90-degree angle. Keep your back and shoulders straight. Repeat the lunge several times on each side.
Doing squats is another strength-building exercise that every nurse should do daily. It provides several benefits in a single motion, and it’s a great option when you’re trying to work some exercise into your daily routine. You can even do a few quick squats in between patients while you are at work.
Squats are easy. Stand up straight with your feet spread farther apart than the width of your hips. With a straight back, slowly squat down and lift yourself back up. Doing this exercise regularly will strengthen your hips, buttocks and thighs while helping to improve your balance.
4. Shoulder Shrugs
Strengthening your lower body is essential, but your upper body needs some attention, too. Doing shoulder shrugs is an excellent way to strengthen your upper arms and back. This exercise also can help keep muscle pains at bay.
Grab two dumbbells or full water bottles. With one in each hand, stand with your arms at your sides. Slowly shrug your shoulders while keeping your elbows straight. Make sure you are doing this in a steady, controlled manner. If you go too fast, the momentum will be doing most of the work instead of your muscles.
5. Neck Stretches
If your neck is sore after a long day of work, you need to add neck stretches to your daily workout routine. This particular exercise is awesome because you can do it just about anywhere without looking strange. You can even do it without worrying about getting sweat on those cute new scrub tops for women you just bought.
When your neck is feeling tight, put one hand behind your back and then on top of your head. Gently pull your head to one side to stretch your neck and shoulder. Repeat with the opposite hand to stretch the other side.
Balance is just as crucial for nurses as strength. Without it, you cannot safely support your patients. While some people seem to have been naturally gifted with strong senses of balance, there are also things you can do to improve your balance.
Strengthening your core muscles makes it easier to maintain balance. And doing planks is one of the best ways to keep those muscles in shape. Place your forearms on the ground, and extend your legs behind you. Put the tips of your toes on the ground so you are holding yourself up on only your forearms and toes. Hold for a minimum of 10 seconds. As you get stronger, work on increasing the amount of time you spend in the position.
Any exercise that builds strength and improves balance is an excellent option for nurses. If you are just beginning a daily exercise routine, though, remember to start slow. It takes time and practice to build endurance. And, as you know, rushing will likely lead to injuries.
Try the exercises above or enroll yourself in an exercise class that interests you. Feel free to experiment with different types of exercise, too, to find one that you enjoy and will stick to. Consistency is key when it comes to getting the maximum benefit out of your workout.