This post for helping nurses find new quick and easy workouts that they can fit into even the busiest schedule.
Nurses know more then anyone that there are so many benefits to exercise. It helps our minds, bodies and souls because it:
Helps to control weight
Reduces the risk of heart disease
Manages blood sugar and insulin levels
Improves your mental health and mood
Strengthens your bones and muscles
Improves your sleep
And most importantly, it releases hormones that make you feel good!
But as a busy nurse, it can be so hard to find time to exercise, especially since the average workout class lasts about 60 minutes.
The good news is that there are lots of workouts that can easily be done at home on your own time whenever you have a few free minutes. Below are seven ideas that will help you squeeze in a quick & effective workout with minimal equipment and time.
So, take off your scrubs, put on your workout clothes and get moving!
7 Quick And Easy Workouts For Busy Nurses
Here are 7 quick and easy workouts for nurses to fit into their busy schedules:
Think you must to get to the gym and lift weights for an hour to get stronger? Think again! As the name implies, bodyweight exercises use your bodyweight to build strength, no equipment necessary. Bodyweight workouts can focus on the upper or lower body or combine them both for a total body workout.
You’ll do moves such as push-ups, squats, lunges and tricep dips that rely on your body weight and proper form to work your muscles. These moves either don’t require equipment at all or can be done using items around your house, such as a sturdy chair. Some people also like to use an exercise mat to provide a bit more cushion.
While running is often associated with training for a marathon or distance, it can also be a remarkably efficient workout for those who don’t want to spend hours exercising. Running for just 20 or 30 minutes will get your heart rate up and your blood pumping, and all it requires is a pair of supportive running shoes.
If the weather doesn’t permit you to run outside, see if you have access to a gym—even the smallest, most under-equipped workout room usually has at least one treadmill. And if you dislike the repetitive nature of running, create a music playlist or download a compelling podcast so you can get two things done at once as you move.
Plyometrics, also called jump training or plyo, is another form of an intense and efficient cardio workout. Exercises include the squat jump, tuck knee jump, lateral jump, power skipping, vertical jump, lunge jump and more. These explosive movements get your heart rate up and burn calories in a short amount of time.
A word of caution: The intensive nature of plyometrics means that this workout isn’t the best choice for everyone, especially those who have lower body or back issues or those who are new to working out. However, if you’re already in good cardiovascular shape—say, you’ve been running a lot and you’re looking for some variety—plyometrics is definitely worth checking out.
Boxing requires a lot of equipment. You need a punching bag, gloves, hand wraps and so on. Certain versions of kickboxing simplify this approach, allowing you to practice without all the equipment (sort of like shadowboxing). As the name suggests, kickboxing focuses on powerful kicks, with the hands and feet being used as the main contact points.
This karate-inflected style can be used as self-defense, but it’s also a very popular workout class both online and in real life. If you’d like to get out some aggression and stress while getting in a workout, simply Google “at home kickboxing workout videos” and plenty of results will pop up. You may feel a little silly punching and kicking the air at first, but you’ll be sweating in no time!
Aerobics is a catch-all term that refers to any activity that strengthens the heart and lungs, such as walking and swimming. Some aerobic exercises require a lot of time or equipment–or both—but plenty of others can be done at home whenever you have a few minutes. Lots of online cardio workouts fall into the aerobics category and they often have a theme such as step or dance.
Classes usually range in length from 10 to 60 minutes, so you can choose whatever suits your schedule. Make sure you check that no equipment is required before deciding on an aerobics workout. Some don’t require anything at all besides tennis shoes, while others may use a step-up box, light hand weights or other small equipment.
In their original form, very few ab workouts require weights or other equipment (though you might want to use an exercise mat to provide a bit of cushion and keep you from slipping during core work). From planks to crunches to sit-ups to leg lifts to toe touches to oblique twists, there are literally dozens of ab exercises you can do at home whenever you have a few minutes free in your schedule.
If you need some inspiration, there are lots of ab workout videos available for free on YouTube to get you started.
Body weight exercises are a fast and easy workout for busy nurses.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is more of an approach than a specific type of exercise. HIIT involves giving your maximum effort to exercise for a short period of time (usually less than a minute) followed by an even briefer rest period.
You may also have heard of Tabata, which is a specific type of HIIT workout that follows this pattern: eight rounds of 20 seconds of exercises at maximum effort and then 10 seconds of rest. HIIT can be used for bodyweight exercises, plyometrics, running—pretty much any workout you can think of. HIIT is a great way to shake up the pace of your workouts and increase their intensity and efficiency without eating up more of your precious time.
Now, its time to get moving!
If you’re a busy nurse who’s crunched for time (and really, who isn’t over scheduled these days?), check out one of these workouts to fit exercise into your day. Any workout is better than no workout, so even if you only have a few minutes, make them count!
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Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com, a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. She keeps busy interviewing caregivers and writing about them and loves gardening
Every nurse knows that the stress from patient care over a 12 hour shift can be exponential. Yet many nurses aren’t giving themselves the tender loving kindness we give to our patients! (I have written many times before about why nurses need to practice yoga).
Yoga is more then just exercise. It offers caregivers a way to give themselves more self care (ahem, nurses!). Furthermore, it helps nurses take even better care of our families, our patients and ourselves in the process.
Restorative yoga is a great way for nurses to reconnect with themselves and provide recovery for their bodies after the end of a 12 hour shift of caring for patients.
(The information on this post is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and is meant for educational and informational purposes only. You should always consult your physician before starting any exercise program. You can read our disclosure policy here.)
Here are 7 easy and restorative yoga poses for nurses to help recover from the stress and physical ailments that plague hard working nurses.
#1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Health benefits of Child’s Pose for nurses:
Releases tension in the back, shoulders and chest
Helps alleviate stress and anxiety
Stretches the spine
Relieves neck and lower back pain when performed with the head and torso supported
Gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles (gently is the key)
Stretches muscles, tendons and ligaments in the knee
Calms the mind and body
#2. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Happy Baby Pose
Health benefits of Happy Baby Pose for nurses:
Opens hips, inner thighs, and groin
Releases lower back and sacrum
Stretches the hamstrings
Relieves lower back pain
Calms the brain
Helps to relieve stress and fatigue
#3. Supine Spinal Twist(Jathara Parivartanasana)
Supine Spinal Twist
Health benefits of Supine Spinal Twist for nurses:
Brings blood flow to the spine, hips and shoulders
Stretches the hips, glutes, abs, back, chest, shoulders and neck
Opens the upper body
Helps alleviate lower back pain
Helps correct poor posture
#4. Reclined Goddess Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Reclined Goddess Pose
Health benefits of Reclined Goddess Pose for nurses:
Opens the shoulders & chest
Opens the groin, inner thighs, and hips
Helps relieve stress and anxiety
#6. Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Legs Up The Wall Pose
Health benefits of Legs Up The Wall Pose for nurses:
It reduces edema in the legs and feet
Relieves tired leg muscles
Helps reverse the effects of gravity and may help digestion
Improves digestion and stimulates the abdominal organs.
Stimulates the thyroid gland
Reduces anxiety and fatigue
Helps relieve lower back pain
Calms the brain and nervous system
#8. Dead Body Pose (Shavasana)
Dead Body Pose
Benefits Of Dead Body Pose for nurses:
Relaxes the whole body
Calms the nervous system
Quiets the mind
In summary, yoga makes you feel good. And you deserve it, nurse!
Nurses need to experience what it is like to fell good in our their own skin? Yoga empowers nurses to create a happier, healthier and more productive work environment by making us the best version of ourselves.
For better or worse, nurses serve as role models in the healthcare community. We need to practice what we preach. Why would a patient listen to our advice on how to life a healthy life if we are not living one ourselves?
Here are a few tools to get you started in your yoga practice:
This is a great yoga mat. The quality is very good for the price. I have been using this exact one in my living room for the past two years and it is still looks new! It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried. In addition, it has grooves that keep the mat in place while in use. It comes with a velcro carry strap for easy travel.
I love the cork Manduka yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new. Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate and tear over time due regular use. They are also heavier and more sturdy with a trustworthy grip. It is a good idea to purchase 2 because many yoga poses require the need for two blocks.
If the answer is yes, that’s awesome! You are working in an honorable and philanthropically rewarding field. But unfortunately, if you are like a lot of hardworking shift workers you may at times feel overworked, exhausted and even burned out.
With a little preparation and focus on your personal well-being you can be both a healthy nurse and give great care to your patients. Its time to focus on nurse self care!
Nurse Health: 11 GREAT tips for nurses to THRIVE while working a 12 hour shift schedule:
Nursing schedules revolve around a need for 24/7 patient care. Sleep deprivation is a real concern, especially for those working night shift. Nurse self care starts with a good night (or in some cases day) of sleep. Here are a few tips to encourage healthier sleep habits after you complete a 12 hour shift:
Turn off the tv (an hour of sleep is always more important then another episode)
Get into bed an hour earlier then you normally do (& see how much better you feel after one week!)
Nurse self care should be a priority. That includes getting a good night sleep!
Get your heart rate up on your days off! The benefits of exercise have been well documented is is essential for nurse self care. It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and helps decrease stress levels. Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.
Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A yoga session or brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Which, in turn will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.
Nurse, get your heart rate up!
#.3 Grocery shop
Grocery shopping is so important for nurses and other hospital workers to ensure good nutrition. It is no secret that healthy food choices are crucial for overall good health and well-being. Make sure you are filling your plate with high density vitamins and minerals. You simply can’t maintain good energy and stamina over a 12 hour shift on sugary snacks and fast food!
Plan ahead by creating a grocery list of the foods you want to eat while you are at work. That way you wont be tempted to reach for something unhealthy when you have a few moments to eat in-between caring for patients.
Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast: Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge. These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around. When you get hungry you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt. The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.
A well balanced diet is important for nurse health and wellness.
#4. Eat a healthy breakfast
Studies show that eating a nutritious breakfast (as opposed to the dougnuts and other goodies often found in the breakroom) can help give you:
More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity and maintaing stamina to survive through a 12 hour shift.
Improved concentration, which can help you give better patient care.
A diet higher in complete nutriants, vitamins and minerals.
Tips for nurses to ensure that you have a nutritious meal ready before each 12 hour shift: Make several mason jars of overnight oats with a variation of these flavors: blueberry/strawberry/raspberry, peanut butter and maple, banana and walnut, or almond and raisin. You can add ground flaxseed or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefit. Then top it off with a dash of cinnamon for a delicious ready-to-eat breakfast.
Oats: a simple yet nutritious way to start a 12 hour shift (nurse self care can be tasty!)
#5. Pack your lunch
Packing a lunch will help ensure that you make wise food choices when you are in the middle of a shift and starting to feel tired. And it will save you a little money to boot!
Here are a few items I use for packing my lunch that help me through every 12 hour shift:
Nurse break rooms are notorious for having sugary snacks like donuts, cookies, or other unhealthy junk food all within an arms reach. Sweets are so tempting to nibble on when you are tired and need a little extra energy. But then a few moments later you crash and are even more tired. On another note, eating nutritious and easy snacks will keep you energized during a 12 hour shift.
Pack snacks like these in your lunch bag to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during your shift:
Baby carrots, broccoli or other veggies & hummus
Celery and almond butter
Granola and yogurt
Almonds or cashews
Sliced apples and peanut butter
Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!
#7. Don’t overdo caffeine
Many studies suggest that coffee and tea have incredible health benefits while also giving you an extra boost of energy. Unfortunately caffeine can also have the opposite effect by leading to rebound fatigue after it leaves your system. Therefore, its a good idea to aim for moderate caffeine intake to help minimize rebound fatigue.
Additionally, one of the drawbacks of too much caffeine late in a 12 hour shift is that it can also cause insomnia. And nurses need their sleep to help recover from the hard work we do taking care of patients each day!
Extra tip: Green teas (like this one) can give you an energy boost with extra antioxidant benefits and without the caffeine jitters!
Green tea: a healthy drink for 12 hour shift workers!
#8. Get good shoes
It is not uncommon for nurses to be on their feet for 8 to 12 hours or longer during a shift. That is why is it absolutely essential that you wear comfortable and durable shoes during your shift.
I have been alternating between my Dansko clogs and New Balance tennis shoes as a nurse for over 6 years. My feet thank me for it. Invest in a quality shoe that is built to protect the feet of busy hospital workers who are on their feet all day.
“I wish I didn’t invest in comfortable, sturdy shoes” said no nurse ever.
Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.
#9. Remember to drink water
Have you ever worked an entire shift and realized at the end that you forgot to drink water for the entire day. It is so easy to do when you are extremely busy with back to back patients and heavy work assignments.
Invest in a good water bottle with a seal-able lid (to prevent accidental spillage). Keep it where you do most of your charting in the nurses station. And try to make it a priority to drink your water every hour during your shift to stay hydrated.
Make you own chia seed water: Add 3 tbsp of organic chia seeds to your water bottle and mix well (you can add more or less to your liking). Within a few hours the seeds will blow up in size and into a gelatinous consistency.
(Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron and calcium. Just another easy way to add nutrients into your busy day!)
Drink water throughout your 12 hour shift and stay hydrated!
Prevention of varicose veins: Standing for long periods of time causes valves in the veins to become weakened, causing blood to collect in the veins. This causes the veins to enlarge, increase in pressure and stretch, causing unsightly varicose veins.
Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots: A study by The Society of Occupational Medicine found that wearing compression stockings significantly decreased lower limb venous pressure in nurses who stood for very long hours.
Decreased swelling of ankles and feet: Swollen ankles and feet are a common side effect of being on ones feet for a 12 hour shift.
Many nurses who wear compression socks say that their legs “feel more energized” after a 12 hour shift. Pregnant shift workers are especially at risk of leg swelling (due to increased blood volumes during pregnancy) and should consider wearing them to prevent venous issues.
Nurse health & your venous system: wear compression socks!
#11. Do yoga
Nurses need yoga, period. Not only does yoga replenishes depleted reserves after a 12 hour shift, but a relaxed and more focused nurse is able to give better patient care.
Yoga’s amazing benefits on physical and mental health are well documented in literature. The Mayo clinic has stated that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among many other benefits.
Nurse self care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial:
Stress management. A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure. (If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels!).
Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain. Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Yoga not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
Are you a nurse who is experiencing burnout and want to live a healthier life? Nurse self care should not be an afterthought. Do you have any other self care tips for nurses that you would like to add? Leave a comment!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Yoga for nurses: we need to care for ourselves first.
Yoga’s amazing benefits for physical and mental health are well documented. The Mayo clinic has stated that “yoga helps reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among several other benefits.
Every nurse knows that the stress from patient care over a 12 hour shift can be exponential. Yet many nurses aren’t giving themselves the tender loving kindness we give to our patients! (I have written before about why nurses need to practice yoga if you are interested in reading).
Yoga is more then just exercise. It offers caregivers a way to give themselves more self care (ahem, nurses). It helps us take even better care of our families, our patients and ourselves.
Why Nurses Need Yoga And The Essential Props You Need To Start Your Practice- Mother Nurse Love
1. Stress management
Nurses have a high workload in many hospital wards. The stress is compounded by managing patient healthcare needs and treatments, daily occupational stressors and even the many frequent changes in technology.
A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure. If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels.
2. Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain
Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Fortunately, the review also presented an overwhelming amount of studies that found that regular yoga significantly reduced symptoms associated with chronic low back pain and greatly improved overall physicality.
Yoga stretching not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain. In a career as physically demanding as nursing, the more physically stable we are, the better care we can give to ourselves and our patients.
3. Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue
Lack of self-care can easily result in burnout and compassion fatigue in the nursing profession. As much as I hate to admit it, even I have questioned how long I can continue with the immense workload and emotional drain that is required of me as a nurse. Thankfully, I have found a productive way to manage this is through yoga and meditation. They help reignite my passion for encouraging others to take better care of themselves.
A study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.
My yoga prop essentials list to start your yoga journey:
I have practiced yoga pretty religiously for 12 years and have tried many different things along the way. These are a few of the yoga props I use at the studio and at home that are good for anyone starting their yoga journey.
I love this yoga mat. The quality is very good for the price. It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried. In addition, it has nice grooves that keep the mat in place. A Velcro carry strap comes with the yoga mat to keep it rolled up nicely.
I love the cork Manduka yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new! Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate over time due to sweat and regular use. They are also heavier and more sturdy with a trustworthy grip. It is a good idea to purchase 2 because many yoga poses require the need for two blocks.
Don’t we all want to feel good in our own skin? Yoga empowers nurses to create a happier, healthier and more productive work environment by making us the best version of ourselves.
For better or worse, nurses serve as role models in the healthcare community. We need to practice what we preach. Why would a patient listen to our advice on how to life a healthy life if we are not living one ourselves?
Are you a busy nurse or mom who is interested in starting a yoga practice? Do you already have a yoga practice? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear!