The interplay of emergency nurses’ work and non-work activity levels

Miss Stephanie Chappel1, Associate Professor Brad Aisbett1, Professor Julie Considine2,3, Associate Professor Nicola Ridgers1

1Deakin University, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Geelong, Australia, 2Deakin University, School of Nursing and Midwifery and Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research, Geelong, Australia, 3Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research – Eastern Health Partnership, Box Hill, Australia


Some research suggests that nurses do not meet the current daily physical activity (PA) recommendations (30 minutes), and that interventions are required to increase nurses’ PA. However, nurses engage in high levels of PA at work, and may, therefore, use time outside of work to recover. It is unknown how active nurses are before/after their shifts and the interplay of non-work and work activity is poorly understood. The aim of this study was to determine how emergency nurses’ non-work activity was associated with their work activity and vice versa.


Data were drawn from 50 emergency nurses from three emergency departments in Melbourne, Australia who participated in the Physical Activity in Emergency Departments (PACED) Study. Emergency nurses (95% female, median age=33 years) completed work and sleep diaries, and wore an ActiGraph accelerometer, for up to four weeks. Forty-two of the nurses also wore an activPAL inclinometer. The time spent sedentary (SED) and engaging in PA (light-intensity and moderate- to vigorous-intensity PA) were determined before, during, and after a shift. Multi-level analyses were conducted to examine associations between activity levels prior to work and on-shift activity levels, and vice versa.


On work days, nurses typically spent four hours being physically active (37 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity PA). Time spent engaging in moderate- to vigorous-intensity PA prior to a morning shift was associated with a decrease in PA levels and an increase in SED during that morning shift. Increased PA at work was associated with an increase in PA levels after work, except for morning or night shifts where PA decreased after work. No other associations were found.


Emergency nurses were able to meet the daily PA guidelines on work days. Therefore, strategies designed to increase nurses’ PA need to carefully consider the timing and duration of implementation.


Miss Stephanie Chappel is a current PhD candidate in her final year at Deakin University. Stephanie completed her Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science (Honours) in 2015 at Deakin University on ‘Firefighters Physical Activity across Multiple Shifts of Planned Burn Work’, published in 2016. Her PhD thesis aims to investigate emergency nurses’ activity levels, and in 2018 she published a systematic review ‘Nurses’ occupational physical activity levels: A systematic review’.