5 Tips for Overcoming the Physical Demands of Nursing

As any dedicated nurse knows, the physical demands of nursing paired with a hectic work schedule can certainly take a toll on your body through lifting, long periods of standing, mental and physical exhaustion and more.

You can certainly help alleviate the many physical demands of nursing, by using the five tips below.

1. Meal Planning for Proper Daily Nutrition

Many nurses will tell you that breaks are few and far between. Making it to the cafeteria (or even a vending machine) can be difficult, and forgetting to eat entirely is quite common!

The key to proper nutrition when there is hardly any time to eat is planning your meals ahead.

Meal planning is a technique in which you “batch” prepare a week’s worth of healthy meals in correct portion sizes. Not only is this great for your health, it’s great for your bank account as well.

The perks of preparing your meals as an on-the-go nurse include convenience, a balanced diet, and more time for yourself.

Try this:

  • When breaks are nearly non-existent, grabbing a healthy, pre-made meal from the staff refrigerator is highly convenient.
  • Preparing balanced meals vs. getting stuck with whatever is in the vending machine ensures that healthy foods are what’s on the menu.
  • Set aside a few hours to prepare every meal for the week.

2. Getting Adequate Sleep Every Night

With long shifts that run from day into night and visa versa, letting sleep fall by the wayside can seem unavoidable. This is one of the more common physical demands of nursing.

The key to getting enough sleep is creating a consistent sleep schedule and using a series of techniques, including sleeping in a very dark room, avoiding food and drink right before bed, and more.

Try this:

  • Work towards a consistent schedule first, then begin adding sleep time to that schedule when possible.

3. Maintaining Strong, Warm Muscles

One of the most common physical demands of nursing are the muscle aches and pains due to standing and walking, lifting patients, moving heavy equipment, leaning over, and more.

The key to avoiding muscle aches lies in proper stretching. Stretching and warming up the muscles takes a relatively short time, but the benefits are long-lasting! Doing this before and after a nursing shift will noticeably reduce the strain felt during and after a long workday.

And even having three 30-minute workouts per week will drastically increase stamina and strength, and decrease muscle aches and tension associated with overworked, weaker muscles.

Try this:

  • Workouts do not always need to be high-intensity. Pilates or yoga will train the heart and muscles in a gentler but effective way if exercises like running or weight-lifting are too much.

4. Reducing Your Emotional Stress

Spending extended periods of time working with sick patients and their families will take a toll on anyone, but practicing relaxation techniques can help.

Breathing exercises are proven to immediately lower stress levels.

Try this:

  • Sit or stand with a tall posture.
  • Breath in deeply and slowly through the nose, into the belly.
  • Count to five as you take a deep breath, feeling your belly rise.
  • Exhale slowly through the mouth, counting back from five.
  • Put your focus on the air entering and exiting your nose, lungs and mouth.
  • Repeat five times to slow heart rate when feeling stressed.

5. Staying Hydrated All Day

Just like making time to eat, making time to stay hydrated is extremely important.

The more severe effects of dehydration include:

  • headaches
  • stiff muscles and joints
  • dizziness
  • confusion

And these can all significantly impact job performance. Making an effort to drink at least 6-8 8 oz. glasses of water per day will inevitably lower the effect that the physical demands of nursing take on you.

Try this:

  • Keep a bottle of water with you during the day. Try one of these high-tech water bottles that tracks your intake.
  • Take a drink of water every time you pass a water fountain while at work (if possible).
  • Set a reminder on your phone to take a drink every hour.
  • Flavor your water naturally with fruit or antioxidant-rich cucumber
  • Drink a glass of water before every meal.
  • Make a game out of it and challenge your co-workers!

Stay Consistent With Your Practices

In order to properly take care of others, you have to properly take care of YOU. Being consistent with your practices will ensure an improvement in your overall health and wellness as a nurse.


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