How to Work Out When You’re Busy and Broke

A recent study found that 55% of nurses in the study were overweight or even obese. We probably all think we won’t be one of those, but about half of us will. It starts in nursing school. I started bad habits there and watched my peers do the same. Why are nurses so fat?

  • Time: it starts in nursing school. You just don’t have time. Will you spend an hour going to the gym or spend an hour with your kids? That’s a no-brainer.
  • Money: gym memberships are expensive. Particularly in nursing school, money is typically tight. There’s always another fee or another widget needed for clinicals.
  • Convenience: when humans are crunched for time, it is our nature to take the path of least resistance, unfortunately usually fast food or vending machines. Home-cooked meals? Ain’t nobody got time for dat.
  • Schedules: if you work 12 hours, you do not feel like working out or even cooking after work. If you work nights, it can be even more challenging to get motivated to get moving outside work.

    Expensive gyms are not the only option on the block, though, and nurses may benefit from the idea of baby steps (any steps, actually). Moving your body for 10 minutes is better than moving your body for 0 minutes. Moving your body for 15 minutes is better. But doing something is better than nothing, and you can move anywhere. The idea that a treadmill and a rack of weights are required for a workout should be discarded. These are all just excuses. Anyone can fit in a 10-minute walk or workout that can be done on a throw rug at home, even between 12-hour shifts.

    Here are some ideas:

  • Get a kettlebell. I know money is an issue, but they’re inexpensive and provide an all-in-one-gadget workout: check out 22 Kick-ass Kettlebell Exercises.
  • Try systems like Sworkit. It works on the Web or your smartphone. Just tell it how much time you have and what you want to do (cardio? yoga? arms? legs?), and it gives you a workout. If you don’t know what a burpee is, Sworkit will help you out with videos.
  • Similarly, has dozens of workouts you can do at home, and believe me, you’ll be worked out. You can’t order the workouts the way you can with Sworkit, but they do send you one per day via e-mail Monday through Friday. They take about 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Use a pedometer all the time. You’ll find yourself parking farther away or even walking to the store from home just to get your daily step total higher. And no, you don’t need to spend money on a Fitbit. Moves for iPhone is free, and the Google Play store has a ton of pedometer apps for Android.
  • Set aside just one day per week to take a community-offered yoga, pilates, or kickboxing class. Many community centers or parks & rec divisions are untapped goldmines of free or cheap fitness.
  • Take the stairs at work. On break. Seriously, use 10 of your 30 minutes to go up and down the stairs. You’re done.

    These are places to start, but the main thing is, one has to start somewhere. “I don’t have time to work out” simply is not the case, and this post proves it. It looks bad for unfit nurses to discuss healthy lifestyles with patients, so I would argue we owe it not only to ourselves, but also to our patients, to give fitness a shot.

  • About Megen Duffy

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    Megen Duffy, RN, BA, BSN, CEN, is a practicing nurse, blogger, and contributing editor for the American Journal of Nursing. Megen has practiced in a variety of settings from emergency rooms to prisons.

    3 Comments on this post

    1. Hey Megan! Thanks so much for mentioning The Simple Gym 🙂 It was really cool to see the link come up on this site, because I’m starting nursing school at Belmont, in their accelerated bsn program. Thanks for all you do as a nurse!

      Morgan Ragland /
    2. Great suggestions, Megan! Especially the part about kettlebells. They’re really perfect for the kind of person who works all the time. Thanks for the post! /
    3. very useful post thanks,The two-arm swing is one of the most powerful and dynamic of all the kettlebell

      kettlebell exercises /

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