7 Exercises That Nurses Can Do Between Shifts

As a healthcare professional, you know the importance of exercise and its benefits. Exercise leaves you feeling happier, healthier, and satisfied after a good workout. Nurses exercise a little when providing the highest quality of care for patients, but that might not be enough. Walking doesn’t burn as many calories as you think unless you raise your heart rate.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio at least five times per week. This helps lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke and prevents injuries while on the floor. However, after long, exhausting shifts at your facility, the last thing you want to do is hit the gym. Luckily, you can do quick, easy, and effective exercises discreetly at the nurse’s station during your travel nurse assignment or whenever you have a moment to decompress. You can even do some workouts from the comfort of your chair.

1. Standing Toe Raises

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart while resting your hands lightly on a chair back. You can lightly hold your hands against a wall or choose not to hold onto anything. Keep your knees slightly bent and tighten your glutes and abs to engage your core. Raise yourself onto your toes and slowly lower yourself back down. A couple of sets of 15-20 reps should do the trick.

2. Wall Squats

Work your quads, glutes, and hamstrings with this one simple exercise. Bend your knees and press your back against the wall as if you’re sitting in a chair. Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle with your knees over your ankles. Distribute your weight evenly through your feet—avoid pressing on the ball of your feet or your heels. Hold the position for 45 seconds, rest and repeat.

3. Wall Or Desk Push-Up

While not very discrete, push-ups are a great way to get your blood circulating and burn a few calories. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing a wall. Extend your arms at shoulder height so that your palms touch the wall, fingers pointing upward. Your arms should be straight in the starting position, so adjust yourself if necessary. Bend at the elbows and bring your body forward until your nose almost touches the wall. Push your body back to the starting position. Aim to complete two or three sets of 15.

For a desk push-up, follow the same rules as for the wall. Place your palms down on the edge of the desk, take a step back and lower yourself down. The closer you get your chest to the desk, the better the exercise.

4. Leg Raises

This exercise targets your inner thigh muscles. Begin by standing with your weight on your left leg. Extend your right leg about 10 inches in front of you, your toe just resting on the ground. Keep all of your weight on your left leg, sweep your right foot to the left, and cross your toes. Move it back to the starting position; repeat 10-12 times. Switch legs and repeat. Complete two sets on each side. Tip: Tighten your abs to maintain your balance; focus on using your inner thigh muscle to move your foot back and forth.

5. Arm Circles

With your back straight, raise your arms in front of you to 90 degrees. Slowly rotate in small circles clockwise for 20 rotations, then counter-clockwise for another 20. Next, bring your arms out to your sides and raise them to about 90 degrees (like a “T”). Slowly rotate in small circles clockwise for 20 rotations, then counter-clockwise for 20. You can alternate between small and large rotations to give yourself some variations.

6. Seated Chair Crunches

You can tighten your core with simple crunches from your chair. Begin from a seated position, with your back straight and arms at your sides. Grip the bottom of the chair with your hands for stability. Press your legs together, feet flat on the floor, your knees positioned over your toes. Keeping your feet parallel to the floor, lift your knees straight up as far as you can without leaning backward. Exhale as you lift your legs, inhale as you bring them back down. Do two or three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

If you have an extra minute or two, you can also work on your obliques by adding a twist. Instead of lifting both of your legs simultaneously, lift one knee and twist, bringing the opposite elbow down to meet it. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Switch back and forth 10 times, rest for a moment, and repeat.

7. Seated Shoulder Rolls

A lot of tension builds up in the neck from stress and long hours. This exercise should help ease the strain.

Slowly roll your shoulders forward 15-20 times. Then reverse the direction for 15-20 reps. Drop your ear down to one shoulder and hold for 10 seconds to get a better stretch. Use your hand to gently stretch your head further down if you like. Repeat on the other side. Do twice on each side, taking nice deep breaths.

These exercises and stretches are designed to complement an active lifestyle. Pairing them with a simple walk around the floor a few times a day will add to a healthy routine and keep you limber during your shift.

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