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Nursing is physically demanding. Repetitive movements and long hours lifting patients can cut your nursing career short with an injury. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing occupations are at a higher risk for injury than most professions. Avoid becoming a statistic by making time for exercise.

Why Is Exercise Important?

Most nursing programs, such as Mississippi College’s Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN), promote patient education on preventive health measures such as exercise. Improve your fitness and potentially improve patient outcomes by sharing this knowledge with your patients.

  • Your patient education may be more effective if you practice what you preach.
  • Healthy, strong nurses can increase a patient’s confidence in their ability to lift them, while reducing the risk of injury.

Nurses who work out are more likely to promote exercise and can share in benefits such as:

  • Reduced blood pressure.
  • Lower stress levels.
  • Lower risk of back injury.
  • More strength and endurance.
  • Increased flexibility.
  • Increased ability to manage physical demands.
  • More restful sleep.

Muscular Strength and Resistance Training

Strength training can improve flexibility, mobility and balance. It can also reduce the risk of hip and knee injuries by strengthening the lower back and alleviating stress on other muscle groups.

  1. Squats – This compound, full-body exercise targets your thighs, hips and buttocks while using your body weight.Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Point your toes outward. Maintain a straight back and squat down while looking forward. Focus on preventing your knees from jutting out further than your toes.
  2. Lunges – Lunges work your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps, and can tone your entire body.Step forward with one leg and lower your hips until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your upper body straight and shoulders and chin relaxed to avoid straining your back.
  3. Reverse Fly – This exercise works the upper body and middle back. It can be done without weights, with dumbbells, or even with water bottles.Sit in an armless chair and lean forward. Allow your arms to hang next to your calves. Bend your elbows. Raise your arms until your elbows are level with your shoulders. Lower your arms and repeat.
  4. Shoulder Shrug – This exercise can be done with or without dumbbells. It can help prevent muscle strain in the upper back while relieving tension.Stand with your hands against your sides. Raise and then slowly lower your shoulders while keeping your elbows straight.

Core Exercises

Core muscles assist with balance and stability. Weak core muscles can lead to fatigue, injury or lower back pain. Focus specifically on these muscles with proper posture to build strength.

  1. Plank – Planking is one of the best exercises to target core muscles to improve posture and balance.Place your forearms on the ground with your elbows aligned below your shoulders. Rise up on your toes and hold this posture. This position builds strength in the abdominal area and back.

Stretching Exercises

Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles and can help improve mobility, energy, range of motion and balance while reducing tightness and discomfort.

  1. Neck Stretch – A long shift can cause tension to accumulate in the neck and shoulders.Stand with one hand behind your back and place the other on your head. Gently pull your head to one side to stretch your neck and shoulder. Hold for ten seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Aerobic Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise can enhance mood, relieve stress, build stamina and increase your energy level.

  1. Walking – Walking is the easiest aerobic exercise to add to your day.Park farther from the building and choose to take the stairs. Wind down from a stressful shift by walking around the block after work.

A Little Effort Can Go a Long Way

Don’t rely on your nursing job to keep you fit; keep fit to do your job effectively and reduce your risk of injury. Take better care of your patients, and enjoy the mental and physical benefits of exercise.

Learn more about the Mississippi College online RN to BSN Program.


Health: 4 Exercises to Strengthen Your Back Muscles

Healthline: 5 Strengthening Exercises for Lower Back Pain

American Heart Association: Walk, Don’t Run, Your Way to a Healthy Heart

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Designing Exercise and Nutrition Programs to Promote Normal Weight Maintenance for Nurses

Mayo Clinic: Core Exercises: Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles

American Nurses Association: Handle With Care Fact Sheet

Nerd Fitness: Strength Training 101: How to Squat Properly

Livestrong: What Muscles Do Lunges Target?

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