The Best Time of Day to Work Out as a Nurse

Since you’re a nurse, you are already well aware of the importance of physical fitness. You also know that, in addition to maintaining your physical health, exercising can ease stress and give you a much-needed emotional boost. Unfortunately, keeping up with an exercise schedule isn’t easy when you’re putting in long hours and spending most of the day on your feet. Finding the energy to swap your jogger scrubs for women for athletic wear at the end of the day is something many nurses struggle with. And as a result, they don’t get as much exercise as they should. 

The Best Time of Day to Work Out as a Nurse

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While making time for exercise is often challenging, it doesn’t have to be impossible. Figuring out the best time of day to work out makes it easier to stay on track and meet your exercise goals. Keep reading to learn more about the best time of day to work out as a nurse and how you can set yourself up on a manageable exercise schedule. 

What Makes Exercise So Important for Nurses? 

When you’re spending 12 (or more) hours on your feet at work, you might think you’re getting plenty of exercise on the job. Unfortunately, even on your busiest days, work isn’t a good substitute for working out. 

Getting regular exercise improves your overall health and lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other lifestyle-related ailments. Working out keeps your muscles strong, too, making you less susceptible to injuring yourself when lifting patients, running to respond to emergencies and transporting equipment. 

Exercising reduces adrenaline and cortisol, lowering stress and anxiety and taking your body out of “fight or flight” mode. At the same time, it boosts those feel-good hormones known as endorphins, giving you an instant mood lift. It can also help if you struggle with getting a good night’s sleep. Plus, when you make working out a part of your self-care routine, you’ll experience firsthand how fitness impacts rehabilitation and illness/injury prevention while setting a good example for your patients. 

How Much Exercise Is Enough? 

The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. This organization also recommends adding moderate- to high-intensity strength training at least twice per week. 

If you spend a lot of time sitting, offset it by getting up and moving around. Even light activity reduces some of the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. 

When to Exercise

The Best Time of Day to Work Out as a Nurse


There isn’t a single time of day that’s perfect for exercise for nurses. Instead, you need to take several factors into account to determine when the time is right for you. Are you an early bird or a night owl? If the idea of exercising after work is unappealing, hit the gym before heading to work. And if you just can’t stomach the idea of getting up at 5 a.m. to exercise, you may be better off going in the evening. 

Think about how you feel after exercising too. Does it invigorate you and give you the energy you need to power through the day? Or does it wear you out and leave you longing for your bed or sofa? The best time for you will also vary depending on whether you prefer working out with others or if you’d rather have the gym to yourself. 

Finding time to work out is extremely difficult if you work 12-hour shifts or overnights. If you are working several 12-hour overnights in a row, try exercising the morning of your first day, and then rest your second and third days. Get some sleep after your next shift and continue your routine on your days off. Alternatively, exercise the morning of your first day, sleep in the afternoon before work and rest on your second day. Work out before going to sleep on your third day and continue hitting the gym on your days off. 

What About Exercising at Work? 

While nursing is physically demanding, you aren’t getting as much exercise as you probably think. Standing is better than sitting, but it’s still not the same as moving around. If you want to work toward meeting your exercise goals while you’re at work, you’ll have to put forth some additional effort. 

Fortunately, there are several simple ways to get the most out of the hours you spend at work. Even something like parking farther away makes a difference. When possible, use the stairs instead of the elevator too. If you spend a lot of time sitting, invest in a pedal exerciser that will fit under your desk. Or, if you stand to chart and do paperwork, try standing on a stability disc to keep your core engaged and work your leg muscles. You can also use your lunch break to get some exercise — just don’t exercise instead of fueling up on a healthy meal. 

A few other ways to exercise at work include: 

  • Speed walking the halls
  • Running up and down the stairs
  • Doing pushups and dips using a sturdy desk
  • Performing wall sits, lunges, etc. 

Be sure to wear comfortable scrub pants for women if you plan to get some exercise while at work. 

Staying Motivated

The Best Time of Day to Work Out as a Nurse

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Sticking to a workout regimen can be hard, especially when you have a physically demanding job. If you have one bad day, don’t let it ruin your entire week. When working out seems more like a punishment than an enjoyable activity, try a different type of exercise. If you hate jogging, you might love biking. Or you may prefer hiking, dancing or even hula hooping. Try different exercises until you find one you like. 

Set goals and find a buddy to work out with. It’s much easier to stay on track when you have someone to hold you accountable and you’re both working toward a specific goal. 


Finding a perfect time to work out isn’t easy. And sticking to an exercise plan is even harder. With the above suggestions, though, you can get yourself on a schedule that works for you and allows you to keep up with your physical fitness.

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