Everyday Nursing Activities That Do (and Don’t) Count as Exercise

Find out which nursing activities can help slim your waistline.

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By Rose Hayes


Your unit can be hectic to say the least. A typical shift may leave you with bumps, bruises and aching feet. While an after-work gym session is probably the last thing on your mind, there are a few times when your nursing duties actually count towards your weekly exercise requirements.

Here's when nursing counts as exercise and when it doesn’t. 

Helping Patients With Daily Activities Can Torch Calories

2 / 5 Helping Patients With Daily Activities Can Torch Calories

Helping your patients with activities of daily living (ADLs) can have you breaking a sweat before breakfast trays even come around.


Nurses responsible for active adult care activities like helping patients with dressing and eating can burn about 285 calories per hour. In fact, just pushing a wheel chair for 30 minutes can burn about 142 calories!

Manual Patient Lifting Doesn't Count as Strength Training

3 / 5 Manual Patient Lifting Doesn't Count as Strength Training

Turning and lifting patients can make you feel like you’ve spent the day bench-pressing. But don’t mistake your fatigued muscles as a sign that you’ve had a legitimate strength training session. Proper strength training involves working every major muscle group on two or more days a week with at least eight to twelve repetitions each. Reps should be controlled and involve a safe amount of weight. Lifting or turning patients, on the other hand, can cause joint or muscle pain, and injuries. The takeaway: hit the gym to build muscle.  


Learn more about Safe Patient Handling and Mobility.

Melt Fat by Standing to Chart

4 / 5 Melt Fat by Standing to Chart

Standing doesn’t count as cardio, but don’t plop down on your chair just yet. Standing to chart still has major health advantages over sitting:


  • Standing burns more calories: seated workers burn about 700 calories a day, while standing workers clock in at around 1,400 calories a day.
  • Sitting for long stretches might actually deactivate fat-burning enzymes in your muscles, according to preliminary studies.
  • Standing engages your leg muscles, plus your muscles will contract when you shift your weight.

Typing while standing lets you burn about 82 calories per half hour.

Walking at Work Isn’t Always Enough Cardio

5 / 5 Walking at Work Isn’t Always Enough Cardio


Walking can burn about 235 calories an hour. But being on your feet all day doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting enough cardio. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Your pedometer may log plenty of steps, but they only count as:


  • “Moderate-intensity” activity if you walk for at least ten minutes at a time and your exertion level is about 5-6 out of 10
  • “Vigorous-intensity” activity if your heart rate’s elevated for ten minutes and your exertion level is about 7-8 out of 10

Want even more health hacks? Cut calories, boost your energy and live a happier, healthier lifestyle with our 28-Day Healthy Swaps Challenge



Nursing is a healthcare profession that involves years of training and continued specialized education to care for patients in a variety of settings. Nurses are often the first healthcare professional that patients meet. They are ...

a technical expert, an educator, a counselor and a resource for the family, using all senses to better care for a patient.