Staying Fit: Best Exercises for Busy Per Diem Nurses

healthy male nurse encourages nurses to exercise
Written by
Jenna Elizabeth
July 15, 2022

Exercise, physical activity, call it what you like — we all know it's good for us. In fact, current guidelines state we need at least (emphasis on at least) 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week combined with a few days of strength training in order to stay healthy. Well, geesh! These guidelines may seem like a walk in the park for exercise fanatics, but for others who need a bit more motivation to spur into action with daily squat reps, today's ground rules for keeping fit can seem demanding. Even more, if you are currently working as a per diem (PRN) nurse, which commonly involves long shifts and overtime, finding a way to squeeze in exercise can be challenging. 

But hey, whether you are an exercise buff or a PRN nurse struggling to squeeze in some physical activity, the following exercises can keep you on track. That is to say, every nurse across the world is capable of establishing a consistent exercise regime. Ready to take charge of your health? Read on to discover some of the best exercises you can do while working as a PRN nurse. 

HIIT Workouts

Let's just start out with a bang — shall we? If you're a busy nurse and want to get right to some fast, high-intensity workouts with big results, then HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) may be for you. HIIT workouts involve alternating between short bursts of high-intensity training and low-intensity training, otherwise known as a "recovery phase ." An example could include running at a brisk pace for 60 seconds and then returning to a slow jog for a minute or two. HIIT could also involve a series of swift exercises performed in repetition, like sit-ups, push-ups, and burpees — can you feel the burn yet? 

Nurses rave about HIIT workouts because they are generally convenient. After all, you can literally do a HIIT workout from anywhere. Needless to say, any type of workout that doesn't require much equipment can be advantageous for a PRN nurse, especially when traveling. With that in mind, HIIT workouts are not time-consuming and are great for sneaking in between shifts. Moreover, HIIT workouts are proven to burn a lot of calories in a condensed amount of time. HIIT reps can also keep your metabolism fired up for hours after just one workout. So what do you say? Are you ready to feel the heat? If so, we love this do-it-anywhere HIIT workout by Daily Burn. 

Running Intervals

If you're already a runner, this workout will only make your heart beat faster and happier. If you're not a runner, stay with us; we aren't asking you to invest in the latest Nike Air Zoom shoe or run the New York City marathon this year — unless you already have, which would be awesome! But if you are looking for an efficient way to blast calories, improve your mood, and get your nurse glow on, running intervals may be for you. Moreover, one study shows that running just five to ten minutes a day can dramatically reduce the risk of death from all causes and the risk of cardiovascular disease. On top of all the benefits that come with interval running, you can literally run anywhere. That is to say, if you don't have a treadmill, or if you are traveling on a work contract, you can slip on your kicks and run out the door. Consequently, running can be one of the best ways to sight-see and get to know new places. 

Running intervals are simple. They involve intervals of moderate-paced running at six mph or more, followed by a walking or jogging recovery phase. Depending on your level of running, the pace you run at during intervals can vary. For nurses looking to gradually break into a consistent running routine, you can follow this simple 10-week-run-walk plan from Runner's World. For more experienced runners, these four higher-intensity workouts by Very Well Fit will be both challenging and short enough to undertake between nursing shifts. 

Yoga & Kickboxing

While yoga and kickboxing may seem like opposites, they both require focus and stamina and are considered art forms. Maybe that's why so many people are choosing to combine the two disciplines and to kick box their asanas to a whole new level. As a matter of fact, professionals with high-stress jobs from all over the world, like Kanika Agarrwal, fund manager and co-founder of Upside AI, are using a mix of yoga and kickboxing to help them stay mentally fit. If international financial leaders use yoga and kickboxing to stay level-headed, it only makes sense that these two disciplines would be a good fit for PRN nurses as well.

With that in mind, it's never too late to get started if you are new to kickboxing or yoga. That's because both disciplines offer some easy-to-follow routines for beginners and long-time practitioners alike. We love these ten suggested poses for kickboxers by Fight Camp. Additionally, if you want some inspiration for a weekly exercise plan that alternates between kickboxing and yoga, you can check out this 40-minute box and flow YouTube video by BodyFit by Amy. All things considered, we think an ideal exercise blend for nurses mixes meditative technique with strength and focus. That being said, yoga and kickboxing may just be the perfect exercise for busy PRN nurses on the go. 

Let's Get the Exercise Party Started

It's easy to look forward to a daily exercise routine when it's fun, fast, and efficient — especially if you are a PRN with a busy schedule and are called in often to cover shifts last minute. Making time for a HIIT workout or an interval run between shifts can help you stay grounded and sharp as a PRN nurse. 

We hope this gives you a little fire under your scrubs to get out there (or stay in your house) and start exercising. Because in the end, maintaining a consistent exercise regime is truly the best gift you can give yourself and your patients. 

How do you stay healthy and exercise between PRN shifts? Spill all your healthy tips and join the conversation on our Nursa community board or leave a comment below! 

Jenna Elizabeth
Blog published on:
July 15, 2022

Meet Jenna, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who writes about healthcare news and updates, empathy and compassion for nurses, how to show staff appreciation and increase retention, and guides that help nurses navigate career pathways.

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