Scrub Stretch: 10 Core Strengthening Stretches for Nurses


Nov 19, 2014

When you spend your days transferring patients to and from their beds you get sore. Lifting. Twisting. Bending. It all takes a toll on your body.

Nursing aides, orderlies and nursing attendants had the highest rate of musculoskeletal disorders among healthcare workers in 2010, according to the United States Department of Labor. An average of 249 nurses per 10,000 reported an injury, which is seven times higher than the average for all industries, including construction laborers and material movers.

So, let's work to prevent those sprains and strains by learning 10 core strengthening stretches for nurses. Swap those Crocs for cross trainers and plan to sweat!

10 Exercises to Help Build Strength as a Nurse

Focusing on building your core strength -- think abs, back and pelvis -- makes it easier to engage in strenuous physical activities, according to the Mayo Clinic. The first set of exercises are derived from traditional yoga poses.

  • Bridge Pose:If you get the chance to lie down on a cot in the break room, try this simple hip-lifting move. Lie on your back, bend your knees and raise your hips, making your body into a bridge.
  • Double-leg Abdominal Press: While you're lying down to do the bridge pose, sneak in this slight variation that engages your legs and stretches the abdominal muscles.
  • Planking: It's not just a social media photo trend! Using your core to keep your body straight and stiff as a board is no easy task and it builds strength quickly. Lie on the floor face down and support your body using your abs, arms and toes.
  • Side Plank: Are you already a planking pro? Give the more advanced side plank a try. This variation tightens the muscles along the sides of your body.

Exercise Props

Do you enjoy using props such as kettle bells, hand weights, medicine balls, a yoga mat or resistance bands to workout? They can also be used when doing core strengthening exercises. ACE Fitness, from the American Council on Exercise, offers these exercises targeted at the trunk.

  • Standing Wood Chop: This standing exercise can easily be completed during a break. Use a hand weight to sweep across the front of the body diagonally while maintaining control of the weight. CLICK the workout tab for details.
  • Medicine Ball Trunk Rotations: If you prefer to be seated, do this similar exercise to build the muscles on the sides of the torso while using a weight such as a medicine ball or kettle bell. CLICK the workout tab for details.
  • Cobra Pose: This yoga posture helps you improve flexibility in your back. Lie on a yoga mat face down, then use your arms to arch upward raising your chest and belly off the floor for a slow stretch. CLICK the cool down tab for details.

Short on Time

If you're short on time and space, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) knows how to get a few core strengthening exercises into your day. All you need is a wall for stability and a few minutes.

  • Knee Bends: While standing with feet shoulder-width apart, place your hands on the wall. Bend and raise one knee at a time. INSTRUCTIONS (See Level 1.)
  • Reach and Stretch: While standing, reach up to lengthen the spine. Then reach to each side, slightly bending sideways at the hips. INSTRUCTIONS (See Level 2.)
  • Lunges: This classic exercise uses your core strength to move into and out of a wide-leg stance. The ACSM recommends not only lunging forward, but to also do the movement to the side and back.

By doing these core strengthening stretches for nurses, your workday will be easier and safer! Whether it's before your shift, during a break or on the weekend, make time for exercise. Do you have a daily exercise routine in place? Tell us about it in the comments below.

CAGS, CCU, nursing
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