A pathway to a healthier you

Exercise shortcut to better strength

Nurses and midwives are busy people. Fitting in exercise on top of shift work can be challenging. Often we are tired, lacking energy, and are time poor, making it difficult to find the time and motivation to exercise.  

Steps at work – is it enough

Jesse, a nurse working on a busy surgical ward, thought he was getting enough exercise at work. “I walk about 7000 steps at work, which I think is pretty good. After that, I often feel too tired for any more activity. However, I would like to build a bit more muscle”. 

Nurses and midwives undoubtedly spend a lot of time walking at work. A 2006 study ‘How far do nurses walk?’ found that on average, nurses walked 8 kilometres during a 12-hour shift.  

To find out about getting enough and the right type of exercise at work we spoke to Ken Nosaka, an exercise and sports scientist at Edith Cowan University.  

Exercise – more than getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’

“Exercises are …purposeful physical activities to increase health and fitness. Nurses and midwives also need to do exercises…to strengthen skeletal muscles, even if they have already taken many steps. Just walking a lot of steps is not good enough to strengthen muscles, and strengthening muscles is important to reduce fatigue and injury risks,” says Ken.  

Ken was part of a study that looked at short bouts of exercise and its effect on health. It found that short amounts of exercise is beneficial for our health and suits nurses and midwives, who don’t have a lot of time.  

Try these for better strength

Ken tells us that exercising the muscles for a small amount of time each day is better for muscle strength than doing only one longer exercise session a week. 

“We have proposed 4 simple ‘eccentric exercises’ that can be performed without any equipment at any time of the day. It takes only a minute or 2 to perform each exercise, and the 4 exercises can be spread over a day.

“We have found that the 4 exercises are effective for increasing muscle strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity, and mental health” 

The study found that lowering a heavy weight down (called “eccentric” exercise) for 3 seconds once a day at maximal effort for 5 days a week over 4 weeks saw an increase muscle strength by 10%. 

Include these exercises in your day

Try these simple ‘eccentric exercise’ to strengthen muscles:

  1. Lower yourself into a chair slowly – repeat
  2. Recline back slowly (sit on front of chair) – repeat
  3. Heel drop and raise
  4. Push up on the wall

Find out more about how to do these 4 exercises and the science behind them: The Conversation: …a few minutes a day can improve your muscle strength

It is important to know that every muscle contraction counts, and every purposeful movement is meaningful for the body