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Four Ways Nurses Can Overcome Health and Fitness Challenges

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Nurses have one of the most difficult jobs in our country. Working several hours a day to take care of our ill requires a mental and physical strength that is both inspirational and world changing. However, sometimes this work can be so difficult that it becomes a challenge to maintain personal health and fitness. That is why in the past year I’ve provided as much as help as I can when a few close family and friends in the nursing profession asked me for fitness tips. After a while I started hearing the same patterns and decided to share some tips with a greater audience. Below is a list of common challenges I’ve heard from nurses and a couple ways to overcome them to increase your health and fitness:

Photo: Cheryl Empey
Photo: Cheryl Empey

‘My work hours at the hospital are irregular and I just can’t find a consistent workout time.’

The key to this challenge is reframing the way you prioritize health, exercise and fitness in your life. It’s not about finding time. It’s about making time and making the habit. Nurses can have crazy schedules sometimes — 12 hour shifts, multiple day blocks, late night shifts, etc. If you keep thinking you will find time to work out and stay fit you’ve already failed. Prioritize fitness in your life and make time for it. This might mean getting up 45 minutes earlier for a quick 30-40 minutes workout or even finding a close gym by the hospital that you can check into for a short workout during your breaks. Don’t let your irregular schedule be your only excuse, by reframing exercise and fitness as a real priority in your life, you will make time instead of trying to find it.

‘Sometimes my shifts are too long and I’m just too tired to get a workout in.’

Nurses have a tough job. You’re working and moving around all day caring for those who are ill. It’s definitely a very emotionally and physically exhausting job and the last thing thing you’d want to do after work is exercise. But trust me, it’s worth it. There are several studies that show that exercise actually improves your energy levels as well as your focus. It’s counterintuitive, but spending energy in your workout helps give you more energy, focus and concentration throughout the day. This will help you not only get through the day, but help you focus on what you do best, caring for your patients. Just like everything else that’s great and worth achieving in life, you have to understand that making exercise a regular part of your life will take time, but the benefits are proven and well worth it.

‘I haven’t worked out in so long and don’t know if I can get back into regular exercise.’

This excuse is not unique to nurses, but I feel like nurses have a unique motivation to overcome this challenge. Would you let this excuse slide for a patient that is recovering or rehabilitating after a surgery or illness? If you’re in the profession of caring for the sick and elderly I’m sure you must have seen numerous examples of individuals overcoming physical challenges and their fear of the unfamiliar. Use this motivation and a reminder that you too can do the same. Not only can your work with patients motivate yourself back into fitness, but vice versa. How would it feel if you could inspire people who were once sick, to become fit again?

‘Some days I work 12 hour shifts and don’t get to eat regularly or healthy.’

Healthy eating and good nutrition is essential to improving your health and fitness. Working hours for nurses can be long and irregular, but you have to find a way around that to prioritize good nutrition. Here are a couple tips:

  • Buy a healthy snack like trail mix or nuts that is easy to prepare and put in a small sandwich bag.
  • Cook more and you can even set up a cooking rotation with other nurses where you bring healthy food for each other each day.
  • Lastly, if you’re running out of options, make a protein shake or green smoothie. Go to the nearest nutrition store, pick up a jug of protein powder or veggies so you can make a healthy shake to drink before or after work. Shakes are super easy to prepare, healthy and cheap. If you’re a little more adventurous, try out some green smoothies like the ones here.

Hope you enjoyed these tips. Let me know what you think at and if you have any other great tips to add!

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