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Top 10 at-work stress relief exercises for nurses

Stocksy | Nemanja Glumac
Stocksy | Nemanja Glumac

Just about all of us have done it. We’ve counseled patients about incorporating some exercise into their lives to help them manage their stress. If you work in cardiology or in any area where you see high-stress, hypertensive patients, this is likely a very familiar scenario.

But what about nurses?

What about our heart, our blood pressure and our stress level? Here are 10 ideas that help you not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk…at work! Hitting the gym can be a huge challenge on a hectic schedule, so these exercises are designed to be done during your shift. Set aside 10 minutes each day for these simple power moves and the results will quickly show up in your energy level and in the mirror.

1. Work your glutes
While doing your charting or if you’re standing and waiting for someone or something, do some toe rises. Slowly rise up on your toes, squeezing your glutes together. Hold for a few seconds, relax and lower down to a regular standing position. Repeat as many times as you can.

2. Lift those legs
If you’re like many nurses, you may not get a lot of time to sit down, but when you do, it’s the perfect time for some leg lifts. Just be sure you are sitting properly in the chair (good posture!), and slowly lift one leg, hold in place about 15 seconds and then lower. Slow movements are the key here. Don’t let your foot drop. If you do this properly, you will be able to feel it pull on your backside, your quads and even your abdominal muscles.

3. Kick that butt
This exercise gives “kicking butt” a whole new meaning. You may want to do this near a desk or wall if you fear losing your balance. Stand straight with feet a few inches apart. Slowly lift your right foot, bringing your heel to your buttocks, then slowly lower it back down. Repeat 10 to 15 times and then do the same with the other leg.

4. Wait! Don’t sit!
Be sure your chair is stable and won’t roll away on you! Stand up straight in front of a chair with your feet squarely on the floor, a few inches apart. Slowly start as if you’re going to sit, lowering yourself toward the seat, keeping your back straight. Just before you would touch the seat, stop and hold that position. You want to feel this in your thighs and buttocks, not your knees, so be sure you’re not leaning forward. Hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds and then, keeping straight, return to your standing position.

You can do this as you’re about to sit down to chart or when you are going to take your break. It’s surprising how this one exercise can really make a difference.

5. Regular squats
If you’re in a patient’s room making a bed or in a supply room getting some things you need, this is a good chance to sneak in a few squats. Keeping your back straight, squat as if you’re about to sit on a stool. Hold that position for a few seconds and then straighten up again. As with the chair squat, you want to be feeling this in your thighs and buttocks.

6. Wall sits
If you want a tougher exercise than a squat, why not try a wall sit? Stand with your back against a wall. Move your feet about two foot-lengths away from the wall. Keeping your back straight, slowly start sliding down the wall until you are in a sitting position, with your knees at a right angle. Hold this position as long as you can and then slowly slide back up.

7. Desk push-ups
No one expects you to “drop and do 20,” but it is possible to do some push-ups using a desk as your support. Stand facing the desk or counter. Place your hands on the edge, shoulder-width apart. Move your feet back a bit so there is room for you to move. Keeping your back straight and your shoulders even, slowly lower yourself toward the desk until you’re not quite touching it. Hold for a few seconds and slowly push yourself back up. Repeat 10 or 15 times.

8. Flex bands
Flex bands are portable. If you don’t have a locker or a space where you can keep things near your break room, you can always carry one or two flex bands in your bag. By having these handy, you can have an instant workout ready to happen. Grab the band with both hands about shoulder-width apart, feeling some tension. Raise the band at shoulder level with both arms. Pull the band in opposite directions to feel the tension increase, then release the tension. Do this 15 times. Then, holding the band with both hands, raise it over your head, pull the band in opposite directions, then release. Now, step on the band with your left foot and grab it with your right hand. Stand tall and pull the band from about your left hip diagonally across your body, so your right arm straightens out to your right side and extends at about 45 degrees. Do this 15 times and then switch sides.

9. Use those water bottles
A full water bottle in each hand can work as quick and simple weights to do some upper arm exercises. With a full water bottle in each hand, arms down by your sides, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Place your hands so your palms are facing behind you. Slowly start raising your arms in front of you until they are about shoulder height. Hold a few seconds, then slowly lower your arms back down. Repeat 10 or 15 times.

10. Use the stairs
Everyone who talks about squeezing in some exercise says you should take the stairs instead of the elevator, and that’s true. But why not add some more steps into your day if you can? When going up to your floor, go up one floor too high and then come back down again. Or, at lunch (or supper), go up and down a few flights of stairs instead of browsing the Internet on your iPhone. Still not challenged enough? What about taking the steps two at a time?

Exercising can be done just about anywhere—you just have to seize the moment and squeeze in the time. Have fun!

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Marijke Durning

Marijke is a professional writer who began her working career as a registered nurse over 25 years ago. After working in clinical areas ranging from rehab to intensive care, as a floor nurse to a supervisor, she found she could combine her extensive health knowledge with her love of writing. Although she has been published in a wide variety of publications for professionals and the general public, her passion is writing for the every day person to promote health literacy.
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3 Responses to Top 10 at-work stress relief exercises for nurses

  1. Yonela galada

    Love it Love it Love it!
    It’s actually true, as nurses we hardly make time for exercising, funny enough we preach about it every passing day to our patients.You actually find that with determination, you can actually incorporate it in your daily work routine.

  2. Yonela galada

    It’s actually true, as nurses we hardly make time for exercising, funny enough we preach about it every passing day to our patients.You actually find that with determination, you can actually incorporate it in your daily work routine.

  3. ZenGirl926 LPN

    Great exercises!! Thanks for the reminder of how easy we can do these in a rushed career…

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