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Physical activity couple walking

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 (DH, 2004) 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.

Physical activity resources

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.

Faculty of Sport & Exercise Medicine, Public Health England and Sport England. Moving Medicine. This website provides guidance for practitioners to support people with a range of conditions and depending on how much time they have to have conversations with individuals to improve the amount of physical activity they do. The resources helps practitioners to ‘Prescribe activity’ and has factsheets for patients.

Public Health England (2014) Everybody active, every day. There is a lot of evidence to show that an active life is essential for physical and mental health and wellbeing. This report provides the evidence and support to promote physical activity at all levels and for all members of the population.

Benefit from activity. This resource, aimed at the general public, includes advice on the importance of being more active. It features real life stories from a range of different people on how they managed to increase their physical activity levels, how they maintained it and the impact it has had on their lives.

About Exercise. This factsheet from the Osteoporosis Society helps promote exercise and safe movement for those with osteoporosis, promote bone and muscle strength, provide help with balance and help people to take care of their back.

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

NHS Employers (2018) Creating a mentally healthy workplace training. Research has shown that managers who have higher levels of capability in dealing with mental wellbeing also have improved health outcomes, are able to perform better and are perceived in a more positive way.

NHS Employers Workplace Health (2015) Creating healthy workplaces: A toolkit for the NHS. This new toolkit aims to support NHS organisations to improve the staff health, wellbeing, effectiveness and productivity by providing practical, step-by-step information on how to implement the six pieces of workplace guidance from NICE.

NICE (2019) Physical activity: encouraging activity in the community. This quality standard covers how local strategy, policy and planning and improvements to the built or natural physical environment such as public open spaces, workplaces and schools can encourage and support people of all ages and all abilities to be physically active and move more. 

Public Health England (2018) Physical activity: applying All Our Health. This guide will help front-line health and care staff use their trusted relationships with patients, families and communities to promote the benefits of physical activity. You can also visit the e-learning for health portal on All Our Health: Physical Activity. If you haven’t already done so you need to create an e-learning account. This is free of charge.


Department of Health (2004) At least five a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health. The report sets out research evidence of the benefits of physical activity for health. 

NICE (2008) Physical activity in the workplace. This guideline covers how to encourage employees to be physically active. The aim is to increase the working population’s physical activity levels.

Blog - Let's get physical

Many nurses would argue that they don’t have time or even energy to discuss physical activity with their patients. But Sport England with the Faculty of Sport and Exercise medicine, in conjunction with Public Health England (PHE) have gone a long way in almost “handing it to us on a plate” with their recent online Moving Medicine programme.

Page last updated - 17/06/2019