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Simple At-Work Exercises for Nurses

No time for the gym? You only need a chair and a wall to stay fit and energized while on the job.

Updated on April 26, 2023

a Latina nurse in blue hospital scrubs looks up from her work tablet and smiles
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At the end of a long nursing shift, hitting the gym may sound like the last thing you would want to do. But you don’t have to skip your workout altogether. These exercises are quick and easy ways to add movement to your day. From doing a quick abs workout in a chair to using a wall to tone and strengthen your lower body, these tips will help you firm up and stay energized while at work.

woman stretches arm out
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Warm Up

Any good workout begins with a feel-good stretch to release tension and loosen your muscles. Start by stretching your arms out to the sides, at a level of about two inches below your shoulders. With your palms facing forward and your chin and chest lifted, stretch your arms back. Hold for 20 seconds. Take slow, deep breaths, filling your chest with air. Exhale as you relax your arms down. Repeat one more time.

woman lifts leg while in chair
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Chair Crunches

Tighten those abs with simple chair crunches. Begin from a seated position, with your back straight and arms at your sides. Grip the sides of the seat 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.

woman stretches crosswise abdomen
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Chair Crunches With A Twist

Got a few more minutes? Work your obliques with a simple seated twist. Starting in the same sitting position as the chair crunches, place your fingers at the sides of your head. Lift your right knee and twist to the right, bringing your left elbow down to meet it. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side, lifting your left knee and twisting to the left. Switch back and forth 10 times. Rest for a moment and repeat.

wall stretches
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Wall Pushups

If your upper body could use strengthening, wall pushups re a great place to start. 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 move a little forward or back 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. As you get stronger, you can try conventional floor pushups.

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Wall Squats

Work your quads, glutes, and hamstrings with one simple exercise: wall squats. 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 the weight evenly through your feet. (Avoid pressing on the balls of your feet or on your heels.) Hold the position for 45 seconds, rest and repeat.

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Leg Lifts

Strengthen your inner thigh muscles with leg lifts. Begin by standing with your weight on your left leg. Extended your right leg about 10 inches in front of you, your toe just resting on the ground. Keeping your weight on your left leg, sweep your right foot to the left, crossing over your toes. Move it back to the starting position and repeat 10 to 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.

neck stretch
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Release Neck Stress

A lot of tension builds up in the neck even in the best of circumstances, and long hours and stress at work definitely don’t help. Ease tension with this “all ears” neck exercise. Drop your ear down to one shoulder and hold for 10 seconds. If you like, use your hand to gently stretch your head further down. Repeat on the other side. Do twice on each side, taking nice deep breaths.

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Rest Your Mind

Taking care of others is rewarding, but it can take a toll on your body and mind. At the end of your workout, find a quiet place—perhaps a lounge, empty room, or nearby park—to center yourself with deep breathing exercises. Sitting in a chair or, if possible, lying on your back, close your eyes and simply notice the in-and-out flow of your breathing. Inhale slowly, counting to four, then exhale counting to four. Set the timer on your phone and repeat this slow, deep breathing for about five minutes.

Bonus: You can do this anytime you need to relieve stress and calm down.

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