Study finds that hospital nurses don’t meet current physical activity guidelines

OTTAWA, March 27, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The disquieting proportion of Canadian nurses reporting poor health suggests their health behaviours, including their level of physical activity, may be suboptimal.

Nurses are the largest professional group within the healthcare workforce and their work is perceived as being physically and mentally demanding. We know from the National Survey of the Work and Health of Nurses in Canada conducted in 2005 an alarming proportion of Canadian nurses report: being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure, smoking, having high cholesterol, experiencing depression or being diabetic. These are all known modifiable risk factors for heart disease.

Workplaces have been shown to play an important role in employees’ physical activity levels and cardiometabolic health. Based on the National Survey findings, the Champlain Nurses’ Study, funded through the Ottawa Region for Advanced Cardiovascular Research Excellence (ORACLE) and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Dissemination Grant, assessed the influence of the workplace (i.e. hours, shifts, work status, hospital and area location, perceived workplace physical activity environment) on physical activity levels and the heart health of Canadian nurses from a blend of rural and urban hospitals in the Champlain region of Ontario. A total of 410 nurses from 14 hospitals participated.

The study showed that seventy-seven per cent (77%) of hospital nurses do not meet current physical activity guidelines, but do exceed the recommendations if evaluating continuous (i.e. non bout) physical activity levels. Nurses often engage in rotating shifts, which have been associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.  Rotating shifts, 12-hour shifts, and/or working full-time or part-time hours may prevent nurses from meeting the recommended levels of physical activity.

“Further research is needed to explore the intrapersonal, social- and physical-environmental determinants of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity influencing Canadian nurses so appropriate, tailored interventions to address suboptimal physical activity levels might be developed and delivered,” said Dr. Jennifer Reed, Director of the Exercise Physiology and Cardiovascular Health Lab, CIHR New Investigator at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and a Primary Investigator for the Nurses’ Study. 

Novel and multi-faceted interventions are needed to address low physical activity levels and poor cardiometabolic health of at risk Canadian nurses.


  • “We know heart disease is the number one cause of death in Canada for women over the age of 55.  And, we know the majority of nurses are women.  It’s now time to focus on the health of our nurses.  We must start caring for those who take care of us.” – Dr. Thierry Mesana, President and CEO, University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
  • “Nurses support individuals to lead healthy and fulfilling lives; they deserve the same in return. This regional study confirms action is needed to promote the health of nurses. We need to care for the carers so they can continue to care for us.” – Lisa Little, Board of Directors, International Council of Nurses.

About the University of Ottawa Heart Institute

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute has flourished into one of Canada’s most distinguished heart health centres for the unparalleled care it provides to its patients, a world-renowned research Institute that brings science from bench to bedside, and the country’s main influencer when it comes to preventing heart disease. Its promise remains the very pillar on which it was built: Always putting patients first.


Leigh B. Morris
Communications Specialist
University of Ottawa Heart Institute
613-696-7000 x 19051