To Move or Not to Move? That is the Question

Regular physical activity is an important part of self-care. As nurses, we put an abundance of energy into caring for others. Making physical activity a part of your own self-care allows for the energy and means to provide optimal care to others.

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  • Specializes in OB, Clinical Education. Has 47 years experience.
To Move or Not to Move? That is the Question

Nurses are in a caring profession and therefore tend to put others' needs ahead of themselves. Perhaps that is part of the reason nurses remain #1 as the most trusted profession, according to the 2022 Gallup poll results. This usually leads to leaving less time to meet your own needs, one of which is having the time, energy, or will to exercise.

Shakespeare's character, Hamlet, asks the question, "To be or not to be?” We might ask ourselves a similar question, "To move or not to move?” This question queries whether there is time, energy or will to make exercise a part of life's routine. Adding physical activity to an already busy day can be daunting. However, adding exercise to your day (or night) does not have to be complicated, and let's face it, you need care, too.  Self-care can enhance your ability to care for others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for health benefits is a minimum of 150 minutes of some type of physical activity a week. It may sound like a lot, but this can be broken up into smaller chunks of time. One suggestion is to be active for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week but the time chunks can be spread throughout your week and broken up into smaller chunks of time.

Physical activity, body movement, exercise, and "workouts" are all terms for using the body in ways that use muscles (and organs such as the heart, lungs, and yes, brain) in a way that delivers oxygen, strengthens and stretches, and promotes healthy brain function. Additionally, physical activity produces oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that elicit feelings of well-being and happiness, improve mood and reduce stress.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the benefits of regular physical activity are numerous, and in addition to what is listed above, exercise increases bone density, increases energy, can help you sleep better, helps with weight management, and reduces the risk chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Moving more and sitting less have enormous benefits for everyone, regardless of race, age, sex, or current level of fitness. Scientific research continues to provide evidence that physical activity links to positive health outcomes across the lifespan.

Physical activity provides health benefits by doing at least 150 minutes a week. For example, 40 to 45 minutes of walking, biking, and group fitness (such as aerobics or yoga), four times per week, can reap substantial benefits.  Any activity that gets a person moving is fair game, and if it is an activity that is enjoyed, the better the chance of staying with it.

Aerobic exercise raises heart rate and produces deep breathing. Activities such as walking, running, rowing, or biking are aerobic. Anaerobic activities require quick bursts of energy with maximum effort. Activities such as weight lifting and sprinting are anaerobic.

Health benefits start straightaway after exercising. Even short sessions of physical activity are beneficial. The positive health benefits of regular physical activity are well established, and research continues to mount in support of getting moving. There is an abundance of exercise options. Choosing an exercise activity is highly personal and depends on individual preference, physical limitations, illness, age, time limits, and availability.

The good news is that there is usually something for everyone. Consulting a healthcare provider when starting an exercise routine is a part of taking care of your health, especially if you have been inactive or have illnesses or limitations to consider. For those who hate exercise, it is important to find something least hated and get moving.  There is a chance to discover it is not so bad after all, that better sleep, more energy, or feeling stronger has occurred!   Therefore, if you ask yourself the question, "To move or not to move?” the answer is (dramatic pause) ... YES!


Nurses Retain Top Ethics Rating in U.S., but Below 2020 High: Gallup, Inc.

Physical Activity: CDC

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A physical therapist's antidote to anxiety: Westfair Business Publications

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. New Folger's ED. New York: Washington Square Press/Pocket Books, 1992.

Pam Noonan, RNC-OB, MSNEd, BSN, NPD-BC. RN with more than 30 years inpatient and outpatient nursing care experience, clinical healthcare educator, supervisor, nursing professional development, yoga teacher, integrative health coach.

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