One of the obvious benefits of being a nurse is the satisfying feeling of knowing you’re helping and caring for others. But it is also a stressful occupation – you spend all that time nursing patients back to health that your own health may suffer if you’re not careful.

And with so much focus on weight these days, particularly for women, there’s all that social pressure to keep trim through exercise. Of course, nurses work notoriously long shifts, which doesn’t leave you with much time or energy for going to the gym. So, what can you do to de-stress and keep fit?

Well, the good news is that just by working as a nurse you are getting more exercise than a lot of people, so you’re already doing better than most! This isn’t one of those articles that tells you what you should or shouldn’t be doing in your daily routine to be healthier – instead, it will hopefully give you some positive insights into how active your job is already and give you some ideas on how you can build on that and feel really great!

How far does the average nurse walk?

 A study published by MEDSURG Nursing in 2006 monitored 146 nurses and found that they averaged 4–5 miles during a 12-hour shift. To put this into perspective, the average American walks 2.5–3 miles during an 18-hour day, while a poll by YouGov found that 52% of UK adults walk a mile day or less during the week.

 The average person has a stride length of approximately 2.1 to 2.5 feet. That means that it takes over 2,000 steps to walk one mile; so if the average nurse walks 4–5 miles per shift then they’re taking around 8,000–10,000 steps. A person who walks between 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day qualifies as “moderately active”, according to the UK National Obesity Forums, so that bodes well for nurses – and it doesn’t even include the other physical aspects of being a nurse.

What does that mean in terms of calories?

 The average person burns 100 calories for every 2,000 steps taken, or 500 calories for 10,000 steps. This rule isn’t set in stone as the answer depends on factors such as your pace, weight, body fat percentage, and age, but it means that nurses burn around 400–500 calories per working day, which is quite impressive!

 Some health tips to support all that walking

 Of course, exercise alone isn’t enough to lead a “healthy” lifestyle; here are some good habits you can develop to complement all those steps you take at work:

  • Eat plenty of colourful fresh vegetables, lean protein and some healthy fats such as olive oil and avocados
  • Stay hydrated with water
  • Aim for at least 8 hours’ sleep
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine (easier said than done, right?)
  • Avoid smoking

That may seem a lot – and it is. If you try to do all of the above all at once, you’re more likely to fail. James Clear, an expert in habits and one of the brains behind the famous Sky Team’s success, explains how habits are the biggest factor to staying overall healthy. Why not bring a bottle of water to work every day and place it next to you? Or start reading a fiction book before bed to help you relax before falling asleep? These are just a couple you can start straight away – you can probably think of lots of others yourself.


Hopefully, if you’re a nurse reading this, you will feel good knowing that your profession is providing you with a lot more exercise than most people get during work. Obviously, this article only talks about averages, so if you’d like to find out exactly how many steps you are taking each day, why not wear a pedometer on your next shift!


Do you wear a pedometer at work? We would love to know. Comment on our social and you might be included in part 2 of this article.