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Physical activity

As nurses we have a responsibility to not only share health information and signpost patients to appropriate services to support them in making lifestyle behaviour changes, but we owe it to ourselves to be role models for our patients and be in the best of health in order to carry out our nursing roles efficiently.

Physical activity is essential for good health, and those nurses who participate in physical activity are more likely to reap the benefits of good health such as lower sickness absence, increased loyalty to their workplace and better recruitment retention (NICE, 2008). 

We know that as a population we are far too inactive.

In order to maintain the good health of our nursing workforce, encouraging them to participate in activities such as cycling or walking to work and use modes of transport involving physical activity as well as providing low cost and fun exercise sessions in the workplace, will also ensure that they are adhering to the Chief Medical Officer's guidance for physical activity; see: Start active, stay active: infographics on physical activity.

There are a number of resources available for nurses to help increase their knowledge around how physical activity helps prevent as well as treat diseases associated with no or lower levels of exercise.

British Association of Sport & Exercise Medicine. Motivate2Move. This resource is endorsed by the RCGP to support health care practitioners with patients with a range of conditions. It offers supportive literature regarding those often challenging conversations with patients around improving their health by changing their exercise habits.


These fantastic factsheets and website for health professionals has been created by general practitioners, nurses, physiotherapists, research scientists and peer reviewed by the Welsh Institute of Physical Activity. Health and Sport.

They were made specifically for busy health professionals to provide all the information required to understand the health benefits of physical activity. Set out by disease areas, they are a brief synopses of the scientific evidence for prevention and practical management of conditions helped by physical activity. There are also further links into more reading, ideas for audit, key messages, NICE guidelines and further organisations who may be able to help.

See: Motivate2Move physical activity toolkit

Public leaflet - Strength your immunity. Staying active during the COVID-19 pandemic
2019 Physical Activity Guidelines [PDF]
Physical Activity and Cause Mortality [PDF]
Physical Activity and Cancer [PDF]
Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health [PDF]
Physical Activity and Chronic Kidney Disease [PDF]
Physical Activity and Mental Health [PDF]
Physical Activity and Metabolic Health [PDF]
Physical Activity and Musculoskeletal Health [PDF]
Physical Activity and Neurological Disorders [PDF]
Physical Activity and Obesity [PDF]
Physical Activity and Pregnancy [PDF]
Physical Activity and Respiratory Disease [PDF]
Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour [PDF]
Sedentary Behavior and Musculoskeletal Disorders [PDF]
Physical Activity and Surgery [PDF]
Physical Activity and Starting to Get Active [PDF]

Physical activity resources

Other literature which supports the benefits of nurses being more physically active: 

Factsheet about physical activity in relation to COVID-19

This new factsheet captures the physiology of the immune system and how being more physically active can potentially minimise the severity of COVID-19 if infected.


During a worldwide pandemic mental and physical health has never been so intertwined into our current working and personal lives. This programme explores the impact of meeting (or not) the mental and physical health needs of patients and staff when working in new ways and with new emotional, psychological and physical pressures. This programme is delivered virtually over three months.

The programme is open to all those working in clinical settings that treat people with physical and/ or mental health needs.  See: RCN Improving Physical and Mental Health Outcomes

Blog - We Are Undefeatable campaign

The importance of nurses involvement with this campaign is crucial as talking to patients about their physical activity levels should be embedded into their everyday conversations.

Blog - Let's Get Physical: Moving medicine

Nurses don’t often have time to discuss physical activity with their patients. Sport England and Public Health England are helping nurses with their recent online Moving Medicine programme.

Blog - Physical activity and lifestyle toolkit

Changing our own behaviour or supporting patients to change theirs, for the benefit of their health can be hard, but with increased knowledge at our fingertips it is made much easier.

Blog - Using Moving Medicine to increase activity conversations with patients

Spreading the word about a fantastic resource out there which supports our conversations relating to the benefits of physical activity for these patients and how they can improve their daily living by being more active.

Page last updated - 28/11/2023