March is the Cruelest Month – March Healthy Nurse Blog Series

By Lucinda Cave MSN RN BC

 

With respect and apologies to T.S. Eliot, March is the cruelest month . . . at least when it comes to outdoor exercise and fitness in Ohio.  Temps reach the upper 50’s (and even 60’s!) bringing fresh air, golden sunshine, promises of spring.  Healthy Nurses recharge outdoors – running, hiking, bicycling, inline skating, kite-flying, dog-walking, garden-clearing, or simply enjoying all that nature has to offer.  We’re energized.  Eager to go farther and do more.  Today, tomorrow, all next week . . . .but then . . . another cold front arrives, with its ice, snow, and deep freeze temperatures.   Major disappointment!  It’s back to the gym, the treadmill, and spin class.  Or we just don’t feel like exercising as much.  We gaze disdainfully as snow blankets our freshly prepared garden soil.  Outdoor activity reverts to mad dashes between car and destination, escaping the chill.  Cruel indeed.

 

March inflicts its beguiling cruelty upon Healthy Nurses in other ways, as well.  No matter how much activity one does during the cold months, indoor or out, the first warm days always seem to entice additional exertion – running farther, biking  steeper hills, working long hours out in the yard.  And naturally, we pay for it later with stiff joints and sore muscles.

 

March is also the time to inspect and repair outdoor equipment – bicycles, yard tools, sporting gear.  It’s been at rest all winter.  And if it is not inspected, cleaned, and maintained, March can be cruel once again, with inopportune breakdowns.  (Think bicycle flats, miles from home, with dicey-at-best replacement tubes.  Ask me how I know.).

 

Yet, we’re Ohioans.  We’re nurses.   We get used to this.  We plan, and enjoy outdoor activity on the days we can, and figure out other healthy options on the days we cannot.  And there is one way in which March is not so cruel.  It brings April and May!

* * * * *

I would like to respond to a comment from last month’s blog.  To receive health benefits, the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following to be done weekly:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity

Or

  • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity

Or

  • A combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity

And

  • Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days

And all activity counts.  Not just sweating in the gym.  A staff nurse who accomplishes ‘4 hours of brisk walking plus 1 hour of regular walking, 1 hour of standing, and 1 hour of lifting and positioning patients every shift’, nearly fulfills an entire week’s recommendation!  I’m jealous!

The important concept to remember is that work activity counts!  This is in contrast to ‘advice’ I received as I began my staff-nursing days – granted, at the height of the mid-seventies running boom.  I was told, “Try to run at least six miles a day.” . . . And I wonder why I was always tired!

But just as there are many roles within nursing, there is a wide variety of the amount of exercise a nurse may get on the job.  The suggested ways to increase physical activity are definitely aimed towards nurses who may not have the benefit of moving as much at work.  And they are just that – suggestions from the U.S Dept. of Health and Human Services.  Certainly not intended to be insults!

As for the complication/injury prevention ideas – heel spurs, foot protection, varicose veins – very good!  Unfortunately, not my area of expertise (as someone who fractured her humerus twice in one week last year while attempting to exercise).    But definitely, after finding the right resources, this would make a wonderful ‘Healthy Nurse’ topic in the future!