Galvanizing Change for Physical Activity

Galvanizing Change for Physical Activity

What comes to mind when you hear the words, “Physical Activity”? For some, it might conjure up a negative connotation while for others, they may already be a go getter for an active lifestyle. Believe it or not, physical activity and exercise are two different terms although used interchangeably. Physical activity is any movement of the body done through skeletal muscle contraction that causes the energy expenditure to go beyond its baseline. Simply stated, physical activity is movement, in any form.

Sadly, less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity, and 28-34% of adults aged 65-74 are physically active in the United States. It is important to gather some perspective on the impact of a sedentary lifestyle and how it is more common than physical activity. According to the Center for Disease Control, physical inactivity is even more common among ethnic and racial groups in most states. The CDC’s January report from 2020 showed overall, Hispanics had the highest prevalence of physical inactivity (31.7%), followed by non-Hispanic blacks (30.3%) and non-Hispanic whites (23.4%).

We all have heard of vital signs. Part of that assessment should also involve the type of physical activity one engages in. As nurses, we are the largest body of the health care workforce, and studies show that we are not following healthy practices when it comes to our self-care and well-being. The American Nurse Association even launched a Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation initiative to address the core elements that address nurse’s self-care and well-being, Activity, being one of them which goes to show that this is a pressing concern.

Some of the challenges posed as to why people do not take part in physical activity is location. The neighborhood in which people live may not have access to outdoor parks, paved streets, or recreation centers. Depending on your home environment, you may not have the space to exercise in.

The good news is just doing any activity, especially one in which you enjoy doing is acceptable in burning calories. Anything is better than being sedentary. The risks of sedentary behavior are universal and it is important for nurses to adopt a more active lifestyle. Physical inactivity is closely related to premature death, preventable disease, and health care costs.

Exercise is a subset of physical activity and is defined as an activity that is organized, planned, and reoccurring which is done with the intent of improving or maintaining one or more components of one’s health. Having said this, physical activity can involve any movement and does not have to involve a schedule or with an “all or nothing” attitude. For those who are trying to lose weight, exercise is not as important as much as your food intake. There needs to be a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. Nutrition and physical activity work in tandem but about 80% is based on nutrition and 20% should be focused on physical activity.

Physical activity come with benefits such as: heart health and prevention of diabetes, improved strength and mobility, release of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin (the “feel good” hormones), increased lifespan, and increased insulin sensitivity. Carrying on extra weight can contribute to joint pain. For every additional pound that you are overweight, an extra 5 pounds of pressure is exerted on your joints.

It cannot be argued that the majority of nurses are female and women tend to hold onto more fat than men; that is how nature intended us to be designed. As we age, we are also at risk for bone loss. For that reason, we do not want to lose weight too quickly because we also want to protect our bones, which is why muscle resistant training is so important. Half a pound per week of weight loss is the ideal; it is all very specific to how much weight the person needs to lose. Even a 5-10% weight loss can reap positive effects on overall health.

Nurses, especially those of other ethnicities can become role models and advocates for system changes at the workplace as well as at home. Even if nurse leaders are not fully on board, it is important to heighten awareness on the benefits of physical activity which would improve morale as well as productivity. Identifying barriers is the first step and serving as a role model would also provide an impetus for behavior change.

Just like with patients, we need to assess our readiness and meet ourselves where we are at. We need to give ourselves permission to work on our fitness regimen so it can be more sustainable. The best exercise to lose weight is the exercise you will do. If you have to ask yourself, “Should I work out today?” hopefully, the answer is yes. If you choose “No”; well, yes you should.

5 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors This Winter

5 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors This Winter

A typical winter’s colder temperatures and messy weather makes getting outside more challenging for many people. This year, with so many people spending more time inside and isolated from others, winter could spike loneliness and poorer health.

Spending time outside in the winter has lots of health benefits. It is often invigorating being in the fresh air and moving around can help combat the unhealthy habits of being too sedentary.

But motivation to get outside and get moving is sometimes tough to come by—especially if you’re not someone who naturally thrives on colder temperatures (yes—those people do exist!). Thankfully, it’s possible to learn to manage the cold so you can stay healthy, improve your mood, boost your resilience, and even keep your social life active!

1. Bring Out Your Inner Meteorologist

Listen to the news, check online, or install a weather app on your phone to keep up with changing weather forecasts. Pay attention to the real feel temperature—that tells you what the air really feels like once wind, humidity, and temperature are factored in. The real feel temperature can make all the difference to getting outside comfortably. A day that’s 40 degrees and sunny with no wind is going to feel a lot different from the same temperature with no sun and strong wind gusts.  Know what kind of weather you’ll be out in so you can plan the right way.

2. Dress the Right Way

Being active outside is a great way to clear you mind, reduce stress, and boost your immunity. But if you’re shivering because you’re too cold or sweating because you’re overheated, your mind isn’t going to focus on anything but being uncomfortable. Dress in layers when you’re heading out and if you’re planning to move—from a moderate to fast paced walk or more intense—dress so that any sweat isn’t absorbed by that first layer. Moisture-wicking clothes keep you warmer because they don’t get damp from sweat which means you’ll be more comfortable.

3. Don’t Forget the Extras

Make yourself comfy by protecting you head, feet, and hands. Hate hats? Use an ear warmer band. You ears are going to get cold quickly, especially if there’s wind. If it’s especially cold and windy, a thin glove under a thicker mitten or heavier gloves will help. Use heat pads in them if you tend to get very cold extremities. The same goes for your feet. Moisture-wicking socks layered under wool socks keep your feet dry and warm. Protect your face with a gaiter or scarf over your face covering.

4. Have the Right Equipment

Snow and ice can make the simplest hike perilous, and you don’t want to fall. Wear proper shoes that have thick rubber soles because running sneakers are no match for a patch of ice on the sidewalk or on the trail. If you aren’t out all the time, investing in a pair of inexpensive shoe coverings (like Yaktrax) gives you extra traction on slippery surfaces. If you’ll be out when the sun is setting or rising, have a flashlight. And wearing reflective gear and bright colors at all times of the day and night will help drivers see you. That’s as easy as putting on a reflective safety vest over your coat—no need to buy a new coat or clothes.

5. Get a Crew

The pull of staying inside can be pretty strong. If you meet up with a friend for a socially distanced walk or join a group dedicated to being outside, you’ll be much more motivated to keep those commitments. And you’ll be more successful at keeping with your plan. Meeting someone outside for some exercise will help stave off the loneliness that is so common right now during the pandemic. If meeting up isn’t easy, plan to make a date to call someone so you can talk and get outside (just use one earbud, so you can hear what’s going on around you).

This winter, try to get outside for some sunshine and fresh air and see if your mood, and your health, improves!

Celebrate National Women’s Health and Fitness Day!

Celebrate National Women’s Health and Fitness Day!

Today is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day and that means it’s a good time to take stock of your habits and tweak any that aren’t so good. Look at this day as a time to celebrate your health and to see if you can make any changes to improve it.

Try a New Way of Eating for a Day

A diet less reliant on animal products is a healthier diet overall. Try going without any meat products for a day. If you really want to push yourself, try eliminating dairy and eggs as well. If you typically eat a super-healthy diet, switch it up a little by trying something new. Go for a smoothie instead of your coffee or get a quinoa salad instead of a green salad at lunch.

Drink More Water

This one bears repeating even if you don’t want to hear it. Staying hydrated makes your whole system more efficient and can help reduce feelings of fatigue or grogginess. Tired of water all day? Substitute flavored seltzer, plain seltzer with juice, or even toss a handful of lemons, limes, berries, or even cucumbers into your water bottle.

Get Your Heart Rate Up

Exercise is crucial for good health. You can either go full out through power spin classes or thrive on the camaraderie of a local softball team. Choose something you love because that means you’re more likely to keep it up. Keep moving for your health.

Get Your Heart Rate Down

As important as it is to get your heart pumping with exercise, it’s also just as essential to control your stress levels. Do something that will help relax you. Not a fan of meditation or yoga? Find something you like to do that relaxes you and takes you to a place of relaxation. That means vegging out in front of the TV won’t cut it. Paint, spend time with friends, pat your pet, listen to the wind, or read a book (trashy or educational doesn’t matter).

Get a Checkup

When is the last time you had a complete physical? Make an appointment today and keep it when it comes time. Do it to make sure your weight, blood pressure, glucose levels, cholesterol, thyroid rates, and inflammation markers are all normal enough to not raise any red flags. If you do get a couple of red flags, take care of them now while you can do something about it.

Treat Yourself Like You Treat Your Friends

Would you really tell your best friend that losing out on that great job must have happened because she’s not smart enough for the position? Would you tell her she looks terrible with those extra 10 pounds? Probably not. You should cut yourself the same slack you cut your friends. Constant negative self-talk will wear you down and can lead to higher rates of stress.

Take Care of Yourself

If you have any kind of chronic health issue, don’t ignore it. Stay on top of your medications and make sure you stay away from any foods or drinks or habits that could impact your specific condition negatively. If you need extra sleep, do your best to get it even if that means taking a couple of naps here and there. Get any necessary tests and follow up exams to keep on track.

Your good health is so important to your quality of life. Do what you can to stay fit and healthy!

Leave Job Stress At Work

Leave Job Stress At Work

Are you taking job-related stress home to your loved ones? Nurses are expected to be engaged, enthused and active at work. But meeting job demands without proper support and resources can lead to high levels of stress, which can follow you home and effect the relationships with your loved ones.

Learning how to reduce on-the-job stress can help you be a better parent.

The first step is to understand the source of your anxiety in your workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines job stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker.”

Identify and list excessive job pressures and demands. Discuss your concerns with the appropriate parties. Hopefully, some critical changes will be made. But if these changes are not possible, and a new position is not a reality anytime soon, consider taking these steps to help you unwind and be a less stressed-out parent at the end of each work day:

■ Imagine leaving your work problems on the job when you walk out the door. Mentally picture yourself boxing up all of the job-related issues and leaving them behind.

■ Create an “at home ritual” that gives you permission to unwind. It could be a bubble bath, listening to your favorite music or playing a game with your child.

■ Ask your family for help with meals, from planning the menu and cutting up ingredients to establishing fun theme nights, such as Mexican Monday or Fun Foods Friday. Infuse creativity and entertainment into daily chores.

■ Exercise to alleviate tension. Better yet, go on a family walk or hold workout sessions indoors while playing your family’s favorite songs. Make sweating a fun, family affair.

■ Avoid getting into the habit of drinking excessive alcohol and caffeine.

■ Seek help from friends, family and neighbors if you feel overwhelmed with meeting the needs of your children or spouse.

■ Schedule adequate time for sleep to recharge your batteries. Consult a doctor if you have difficulty sleeping.

■ Reflect on the positives in your life.

Job stress has far reaching consequences. Learn how to manage it, at work and home, to take better care of your family.

4 Self-Care Practices for Nurses

4 Self-Care Practices for Nurses

As a nurse, your job is to focus on the health and healing of your patients. But in order to give them the best care possible you need to take care of yourself first. You may have heard the phrase “self-care,” but what does it really mean and how can you put it into practice in your nursing career? Here are four easy ways that you can start today to enhance your self-care and ultimately enhance the care you give to your patients.

Take a Break

If at all possible, take a break during your shift and step away from your work area. Go eat lunch outside, take a quick walk or sit quietly and read. Getting away, even for 15 minutes, will help you get centered and relieve stress. Even if you don’t have time for anything more than a five minute restroom break, use that time to take deep breaths and close your eyes.

Eat High-Energy Snacks

When working long shifts, you’ll want to be sure you have plenty of healthy, high-energy snacks that are quick and easy to grab and eat. You simply cannot be a great nurse if you’re hungry or have low-energy. Keep string cheese, almonds or even a protein bar or shake handy for snacking. The protein will help ward off hunger and give you the energy you need to get through the day.

Stay Positive

Avoid falling prey to workplace gossip or negativity. If your work environment is negative, it will have a negative impact on your emotional health. Again, use your break time for good self-care (eating a healthy meal, walking, calling a friend) instead of venting with coworkers.


Does your workplace have a gym? Is there a gym near your work or home? Regular exercise is one of the best ways to practice self care. Many healthcare organizations offer wellness and exercise classes. Be sure to actively participate. Exercise will help manage stress, keep you at a healthy weight and help fight depression.

Which positive act of self-care will you do today?