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.
- over one in four women and
- one in five men do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week, so are classified as ‘inactive’
- physical inactivity is the fourth largest cause of disease and disability in the UK.
(Murray, CJ. et al (2013) UK health performance: findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, Lancet, March 23-29, pp. 997-1020)
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.
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.
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
- Benefit from activity.
- Department of Health and Social Care (2019). Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers' report.
- Moving Medicine.
- Public Health England (2014) Everybody active, every day.
- Sport England. Moving Healthcare Professionals.
- The Royal Osteoporosis Society. Exercising for bones
Other literature which supports the benefits of nurses being more physically active:
- NHS Employers Workplace Health (2015) Creating healthy workplaces: A toolkit for the NHS.
- NICE (2019) Physical activity: encouraging activity in the community.
- PACE-UP. PACE-UP was a randomised controlled trial of a pedometer Intervention to Increase walking in adults.
- Public Health England (2018) Physical activity: applying All Our Health. 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.
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
Page last updated - 28/11/2023