Let’s face it – nurses lead busy lives. It can be hard to find the time to leave work, get to a gym, work out, and get home. In fact, it can be hard to even leave the hospital!
But nurses also know the value of exercise – and what can happen to people who neglect their physical fitness over their lifetimes. Poor physical health, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes – these are just the tip of an iceberg.
So what’s a nurse to do when there’s no time to go to the gym? There’s an answer! Even though going to the gym and doing some cardio on the treadmill or elliptical is a good workout, it’s not the only way that you can keep fit.
In fact, there’s a great regimen of exercises that you can do every day – no matter where you are – to increase your strength, flexibility, and physical fitness. Let’s take a look at them below.
- “Walk-Out” Push-Ups
These pushups are a variation on the traditional push-ups that you probably had to do in gym class years ago – and haven’t done since.
Start by standing with your feet about hip-distance apart. Fold down at the hips – like you’re trying to touch your toes – and reach your hands towards the floor. When your hands reach the floor, “walk” them forward and begin flattening your spine into a neutral position – the push-up position.
Perform a full push-up, and then reverse the motion, “walking” your hands back and then returning to a full standing position. Here’s a video example.
Because this motion incorporates a huge variety of muscle groups, it strengthens many areas of your body, and the intense walking action raises your heart rate.
Squats are great because they force active participation by the brain – balance is required to perform a great squat.
Place your feet shoulder-width apart, and place your arms out straight in front of you. Slowly, engage your quads as you drop your butt, and continue descending until your quads are as close to parallel with the floor as possible. Then, engage your quads and hamstrings to push yourself back up to a standing position.
If you’re unsure about your strength or balance, you can modify this exercise by using a wall to brace your back – after a few sessions, you’ll be ready to try it without support.
- Jumping Jacks
Don’t laugh! They’re not just for 7th-grade gym class. Jumping jacks are a fantastic plyometric exercise that strengthens your legs, and allow you to raise your heart rate quickly, and promote better cardiovascular health.
If you need a refresher, begin by standing and placing your feet closely together, while letting your arms dangle loosely at your side.
Next, quickly raise your arms above your head, and jump at the same time. You should jump just high enough that you can spread feet to about shoulder-width.
Then, do the same exact movement, but in reverse – jump again to move your legs back into a close position, and put your hands at your sides.
Start by doing about 10-12 jumping jacks – as you get stronger, you can keep going until you feel tired, and need a break.
- Hip Bridge
The hip bridge is one of our favorite exercises – because you can lay down while you do it. But seriously, this exercise helps strengthen your back, hamstrings, and glutes, as well as your core, and helps you increase your balance.
Begin by lying flat on the floor, relaxed. Place your hands at your sides, palms down. Next, bend your knees by placing the soles of your feet flat on the floor, separated by about a shoulder length.
Next, inhale and use your feet to push your hips away from the floor. Straighten your back – you’ll be at about a 30-degree angle from the ground, balancing on your feet and using your back and core muscles to maintain your position.
Hold this position for a few seconds, and then return to your starting position.
Repeat as desired, up to 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Yep, it’s the dreaded plank! It may hurt, but this abdominal exercise is simply the best all-in-one core strengthening workout there is. So learn to love the pain – and your six-pack, if you stay consistent with your workouts!
Begin by lying on the floor in a face-down position, with your arms in front of you. Brace yourself on your forearms and elbows. Plant your feet on the ground, and push off with your forearms and elbows to raise your stomach to a flat position. You want to be parallel to the ground, and to be elevated by 6-12 inches.
As you get stronger, you may be able to hold your plank for up to 30 seconds, or even a minute or longer – but start out small. Good form is more important than anything else, so begin by doing repetitions of 10 seconds, and increase as you begin to feel stronger.
There’s No Substitute For A Gym – But This Will Help!
These exercises aren’t a substitute for cardio like running, walking, and so on – but given how easy they are to perform, and their versatility, this set of 5 daily exercises can help you maintain your strength, and get a workout when you can’t make it to the gym.
So whether you do them right after you wake up, during the break on your shift, or when you get home, this set of 5 exercises is sure to have you feeling fit.
John Rucker is a fitness and health professional and a certified personal trainer. He holds a Bachelor of Exercise of Wellness from ASU. He also worked in the product and development team at NASM. For more information, or to reach out to John, email firstname.lastname@example.org.