‘Do Anywhere’ Workouts for Nurses

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By Megan M. Krischke, contributor 

March 24, 2012 - “Nurses need to understand that the job they are doing is very important and not everyone has the qualities it takes to do that job--but taking care of yourself is part of the job,” said Casio Jones, BS, ACSM-HFI, wellness director for Florida Hospital Zephyrhills. “If 55 percent of nurses are overweight in a profession that is about health, something is wrong. My motto is: move more, pray more, love more and enjoy more. When you do those things, you are more able to do what you are called to do.”

Workouts for Nurses
"You can’t exercise for anyone else until you decide to exercise for yourself. You can make a huge difference in your own well-being and in your performance on the job," said Casio Jones, BS, ACSM-HFI.

Jones and Andrea Krakower, MS, manager of wellness development and promotion at Scripps Health in San Diego, offer workout suggestions for nurses than can be done almost anywhere.

“You have to be an athlete to be a nurse and be on your feet for 12 hours, moving patients around,” said Krakower. “Nurses are asked to do more, faster, and their patients are larger and sicker than ever. Exercises that build cardiovascular strength for stamina and that provide functional strengths for pushing, pulling, and sit-to-stand motions, along with basic strength training, are good choices for nurses.”

Both Krakower and Jones recommend doing circuits of calisthenics as a fitness routine you can do inside, outside, at home or at work.

“With even as little as 20 to 30 minutes focusing on exercises that promote healthy movements, such as squats, lunges, hip lifts/bridging off the ground, push-ups and planks, you can get your heart rate up, target movements that you use at work, and feel better and look better,” remarked Krakower.

Jones recommends taking the stairs whenever possible and stopping to use them as a mini-gym for supported push-ups, dips and calf stretches. Running up and down the stairs for 20 seconds then walking for 40 seconds and repeating for 10 minutes provides a great cardiovascular workout.

While she recommends seeking the input of a trainer if you are new to exercise, Krakower suggests that if you are just starting a fitness routine, you might do as many of a single calisthenics exercise as you can with good form, then take a minute rest, then move on to the next exercise. For someone who is quite fit, they might do 30 seconds of the exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest. As long as you are doing the calisthenics in succession, you will also get a cardio benefit.

“Ideally, nurses should try to get a full body workout, like circuit training, three times a week,” recommends Jones. “And include some core exercises that include twisting and bending. Resistance bands are a good investment, because they are inexpensive and very portable.”

He also suggests replacing your chair with a balance ball, if possible. The ball will take pressure off vertebrae while strengthening abdominal and lower back muscles.

Both Jones and Krakower emphasized that fitness isn’t just about exercise; it is about lifestyle.

Workouts for Nurses
Andrea L. Krakower, M.S., stated, "I hold the nursing profession in such high esteem—it is an athletic event, so the training is very important."

“A 12-hour shift, especially a night shift, is tough. Increasingly, studies are showing that good sleep is the Holy Grail of health. So, before working out, make sure you are getting enough sleep,” encouraged Krakower. “Many nurses walk several miles during a shift, so focus on your days off to add in fitness that you enjoy. These days many of our nurses are really enjoying Zumba.”

“Utilize your days off to be more active rather than trying to pick up extra shifts,” added Jones. “The job is physically and mentally stressful. Exercise can be a good stress release, as can reading, painting or other activities that help to deescalate you from your workload. A light workout before work could help you to get revved up before your shift. You need to know how you respond to exercise and challenge yourself to be more active.”

When starting a new fitness routine, it is extremely important to have social support, either from friends or family, and to find someone you trust to lead you in exercise, according to Krakower.

“Ultimately, you just have to commit to doing it,” she went on. “Thirty minutes a day is not a big commitment, but people tell themselves it is. It can be 10 minutes at a time in your living room or on a break during a shift. Once people can get past the point of telling themselves the ‘I don’t have time’ story, or the ‘This is not a priority’ story, or the ‘I have too much to do’ story, it isn’t hard. If you can just get your fitness clothes on, you will likely do your exercising.”

“Exercise is nothing new. What people need to understand is ‘Why exercise?’ It is so we can live longer and live better.  Your health is one of your most important tools to do what you are created to do.” Jones concluded.

© 2012. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.