Older nurses ‘not exercising enough’ at home or work

Some older nurses do not exercise enough, possibly putting their own health at risk.

The survey of 210 nurses found that older nurses are also less likely to meet recommended physical activity levels at work, regardless of job demands, place of work, and body-mass index.

The study, entitled Nurses, age, job demands and physical activity at work and at leisure: A cross-sectional study, was conducted by Vera McCarthy and her colleagues, S Crowley and Teresa Wills.

The study said: “The nursing workforce is ageing, and increased age and demands at work can impact on physical activity levels in the workplace and at leisure. Research has shown that work physical activity, without activity at leisure, is insufficient to prolong well-being.”

The study investigated the physical activity levels of a sample of nurses, to determine if age and job demands are associated with recommended physical activity levels at work and at leisure.

The data was collected during 2016, with 210 nurses participating by self-reporting the data.

Four out of five of them were staff nurses (82%), with just over half of the sample working shifts. Respondents worked in a variety of areas, with the majority in surgical wards (18%) or operating theatres (17%). Less than half of the nurses engaged in the recommended amount of physical activity at work, and only 9% did in leisure-time, which compares with 31% of the general population.

According to the report: “This is a worrying finding, particularly in view of longitudinal evidence, demonstrating the necessity of leisure-time physical activity (beyond work physical activity) for maintenance of good health.”

Dr McCarthy said there is a “qualitative demand” on nurses, meaning they can fall behind with their work and that job-rotation could be a possible solution.

The report read: “The Irish health service is under strain, with an ageing population, and, indeed, an ageing nursing workforce. The combination of these factors can potentially threaten the provision of safe, quality care, going forward.

“Nursing, as a profession, demands a level of physical activity to meet the needs of patients. The delivery of safe, quality care is a fundamental part of the nurse’s role. However, if the nurse is unable to engage with their work, at the level demanded by their work area, they may opt to leave the profession, with a resultant loss of valuable experience.

“The physical activity levels required of nurses, in different work areas, needs to be assessed and work matched to ability to retain our experienced nursing workforce. This is particularly important for older nurses, who, as found in this study, are less likely to engage in recommended physical activity levels at work.”

Study published in Applied Nursing Research at


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