Core Strength: Fundamental For Nurses’ Health 4269

Core Strength: Fundamental For Nurses’ Health

Nursing can have physical demands such as moving equipment, reaching, and hours-upon-hours on your feet. And at the center of it all (pun intended) is your core. 

Your core muscles control your pelvis and spine to provide stability and balance. They protect all the major organs in the abdominal area and allow you to turn and bend or pick up and move objects. According to #healthynurse, Ljuca (LJ) Belsito, RN, MSN, CCM, retired Captain of the United States Public Health Services (USPHS) and certified strength coach, core strength is vital for anyone who is a nurse.

“Your core keeps the top half and the lower half of your body moving in synchrony,” he says. “If you don't have that baseline for strength, there's a good chance you're going to pull a muscle, tweak something, or move in a way that could cause you great discomfort.”

The good news is that there are easy ways to engage your core and make it stronger. As you’d do with any patient, assess your current situation and then take action.

Signs of Weak Core Muscles
The idea of core strength often conjures images of 6-pack abdominals. But your core involves more than just the abs — it includes the muscles found in the buttocks, hips, and throughout your back. That’s why core strength isn’t simply a matter of how well you do sit-ups.

If you have a weak core, you may notice symptoms including:
  • Bad balance
  • Discomfort standing for long periods
  • Lower back pain
  • Poor posture
  • Inability to rise from a seated position without using your hands

LJ suggests two additional ways to test your core strength. See if you can get into a low squat position or if you can hold a plank for 15 seconds or more. If you struggle with either task, you likely need to focus on building core strength.

Easy Core Strengthening Exercises for Beginners
Strengthening your core doesn’t require hours at the gym or a personal trainer. LJ recommends choosing two or three exercises to do every other day as part of your morning routine or while watching television. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.

“When you’re just starting, stick to simple and basic core exercises that allow you to focus on the muscles you’re contracting to get the most out of each exercise,” he says. “That’s all you need to feel more stable and stand upright. Doing them consistently will help you lift things more easily and enhance your ability to move.”

Simple exercises that work your core include:
  • Brisk walking: Your pelvis attaches to your abdomen, so walking engages your entire core.
  • Dead bug: Lay on your back, with your arms and legs sticking up in the air and your knees bent to 90 degrees — like a dead bug. Simultaneously lower your right arm over your head and left leg straight toward the floor. Slowly bring them back to the starting position and repeat 5 times, alternating limbs.
  • Isometric contractions: Focus on contracting your core while standing. Hold it tight for a few seconds and then release.
  • Plank hold: Lay on your stomach and engage your abdominal muscles. Push your body up to rest on your forearms and knees (beginner) or toes (advanced). Form a straight line with your back and buttocks and hold.
  • Standing knee raise: With legs shoulder distance apart, lift one leg to form a 90-degree angle with your knee and lower it. Repeat 5 times, alternating legs.

Protecting Your Core Muscles While on the Job
No matter how strong your core is, all nurses must protect their core when performing physical duties at work. It starts with being mindful of how you’re moving.

“You have to think about ergonomics and how you position your body to do those tasks that you know you need to do,” LJ says. “Nurses spend a lot of time in awkward positions, whether you work in adult care, intensive care, or even neonatology where you’re leaning over an isolette.”

Being mindful of your body position is also essential and even more challenging during emergencies. With that in mind, though, nurses must remember that no manual patient lift is safe.  Always use safe patient handling and mobility principles and equipment.

“There are a lot of things nurses take for granted that you do on a daily basis. And if you’re doing them in a rush or while focused on saving a life, you need to think about your well-being,” LJ says. “Because we all know that if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anybody else.”
                                                                         
What steps do you take personally to prevent physical injury on the job? Do you have any favorite core building exercises? We’d love to hear what works for you. Share with us in our discussion.

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Blog Physical Activity 10/15/2022 9:22am CDT

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Nurses are often on their feet all day but fall short of recommended national guidelines for physical exercise. This domain includes strategies for overcoming barriers for guidelines and meeting exercise guidelines.