5-minute exercises: Before, during and after your workday

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

You have so much affection for your non-nurse friends, but a lot of conversations with them can be pretty much summed up as follows:

Needless to say, Tuesday evening yoga may not be a big part of your world.

But here’s the thing—while the struggle is definitely real, nurses still need to put a little extra love into making their own health a priority, even if that means a brief moment of exercise here, followed by a dash there.

So, to help you sneak some extra activity into a schedule already bursting at the seams, we’ve gathered some of our top exercise tips by and for nurses. Heck, we’ve even divvied them up into tasks you can complete before, during or after your shift. So—no excuses…except for every now and then, because we’ve all been there.

Before your shift:

1. A nurse is no stranger to routines. So why not use that to your advantage and cultivate your own morning and/or pre-shift regimen? Here’s an example:

  • Wake up and get those limbs moving right away with 25 jumping jacks.
  • Don’t just walk to the kitchen, the bathroom or even your closet—march there with high knees.
  • A shower can take some time to get good and steamy. How convenient for performing a few vanity pushups, which are just like any ol’ pushups, only you’re leaning against a counter—like the one you have in your bathroom.
  • It’ll take a few minutes for your breakfast oats to cook or your coffee to cool. Squats (see proper form below) it is, then!

2. Oh look, the parking spot right near the entrance is available. Tempting, isn’t it?

Ah—but the number of steps showing on the face of your new Fitbit says otherwise. To kick things up a few notches, aim for a parking spot that makes you feel like you’re crossing the Sahara Desert just to reach the front doors.

3. All right, all right—so taking the stairs is old news. That’s why we’re going to tell you to take more steps than necessary, maybe even two or three floors’ worth. Once the stairs get to be a breeze, try tackling them two steps at one time.

During your shift: 

1. Water bottles are awfully convenient, especially when you know they can double as weights to perform some upper arm exercises.

Here’s how:

With a full water bottle in each hand, lower your arms to your sides and plant your feet shoulder-width apart. With knuckles facing forward, slowly begin raising your arms in front of you until they are about shoulder height (if you feel a bit like a zombie, you’re doing it right). Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your arms to your sides. Repeat this movement 10 or 15 times.

2. Found yourself alone in the supply room, did ya? What a perfect scenario for performing some squats!

Here’s how:

Remember all that time you spent wishing you could sit for a few minutes? It’s just like that…minus a chair. Keeping your back straight, lower yourself as if you’re about to take a seat on a stool. Hold the position for a few seconds before rising up again.

3. Okay, so we all loathe charting, but how often do you find yourself simply standing? Take advantage of these moments, whether you’re scribbling away or waiting, to accomplish some toe rises.

Here’s how: 

Slowly rise up on your toes, squeezing your thighs together as you go. Check out the scene from up there for a few seconds before steadily lowering yourself down to a regular standing position. Repeat this motion (pretty much at a snail’s pace) as many times as you can.

After your shift: 

1. You may just be waiting for water to boil so you can get your pasta fix, but this is still time you can capitalize on by churning out a few wall squats.

Here’s how: 

Stand with your back against a wall. Adjust your feet so they’re planted about two foot-lengths away from the wall. With your back straight, slowly begin sliding down the wall until you’ve reached a sitting position. Hold this position with your knees at a right angle for as long as you can and then slowly slide back up.

Slow is the name of the game here…just don’t let your pasta boil over.

2. We get it—by now your brain is probably fried and you just want to catch the latest episode of any guilty-pleasure TV series. You can do that, but think about doing out some leg lifts while you find out who really killed so-and-so.

Here’s how:

Sitting in a chair (see—this one isn’t so bad!), slowly lift one leg. Hold it in place for about 15 seconds and then lower it back down to the floor. Again, slow movement is key here, so think “molasses.”

Nurses, these exercises may only represent minor tweaks to your day, but those tweaks can and will add up.

If you have your own nurse-ready exercises, then be sure to share them with us in the comments section below!

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. I need to find something that takes little time and has little pain! Between arthritis, systemic joint inflammation, joint replacements, and a metal plate for a collarbone….exercise hurts!

  2. I am actually reading this during my lunch and need some motivation… I have been helping a GF with her mother who has dementia, work full time and take on line classes and I feel drained at the end of the day. Even though I have finally found a nice little place for my dementia “stepMom” I still feel drained, I have forsaken my work out for the past year for her safety and health putting mine on hold. This was up lifting and inspired me to go after work and buy this bike I have been wanting. I have a light long distance bike but I want one to ride to the park, and up and down the streets where I live ….. thank you this was a great piece… oh and starting tomorrow morning I will march to the kitchen for coffee:-)

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