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Moving for Mental Health: Hospital edition!

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness week is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health so this blog’s focus will be looking at movement at work, which particularly will be poignant to those of you who work in hospitals.

Have you ever looked at your step count when you’re at work? I went back to look at my step count when I was on my general surgery rotation - I was doing between 10 - 15,000 steps per day on my on-call block! In medicine, we often talk about this golden phrase “work-life balance” which, don't get me wrong, is incredibly important, but I found my experience, particularly when transitioning to F1, really difficult to balance exercise with work. 

To be honest, I felt really guilty that I was not putting aside the time to go to the gym as frequently as I would have liked. Now, I try to go at least once a week and give myself bonus points if I feel like doing more or instead go for a short run when the weather is behaving. I was always inspired and jealous of  gym influencers waking up at 5am to slip in a workout before work, but honestly I found myself to be too exhausted needing a longer sleep before work but then too tired to do anything else after work.  So thinking back on this theme helped me reframe my thinking behind moving for mental health because automatically we can assume that means intense exercise but actually that is not the only way to move our bodies. 

“We know that even the thought of starting “exercise” can be off-putting to many people and that’s why we’re focusing on movement to make you feel good. At a very basic level, physical activity means any movement of your body that uses your muscles and expends energy. One of the great things about moving more is that there are possibilities to suit almost everyone.- Mental Health Foundation

There are many ways which we can move more at work - here are five simple tips:

1). Taking the stairs instead of the lift

I am very guilty of this even using the lift for 1 floor (*insert embarrassed emoji!) even when there are clear signs all around the hospital about the benefits of taking the stairs but not only does it have a great cardiovascular impact, it can be a stress-reliever - a quick time out when moving between wards or tasks. That may not always be feasible if needed to get to floor 1 to 5 but why not hop off halfway and take the stairs for the rest of the journey!

2) Go on a short walk in your break - whether that is the journey to the doctor’s mess or another area for lunch, but at least not at your desk!

3) Print your discharge/clinic letters at a printer not beside you so you have to get up!

4) Walk to a different water fountain machine and stay hydrated throughout the day!

5) Start that step count competition!

However, the point is any movement is great and as Mental Health Foundation have noted this is not an exercise campaign as this can be a triggering message for people with experience of disordered eating/ exercise addiction. If you are worried that you or someone you care about is exercising excessively or causing harm, please visit BEAT for further information and support.

You may find that you do this automatically anyway without realising and that’s great! I hope this blog helps you realise even the small steps in your day counts as movement.

Working in the NHS is no mean feat so these little snippets of energisers can make all the difference for your mood and energy. #MomentsForMovement 

Written by,

Dr Ellen Nelson-Rowe,

Melanin Medics Blog Lead

Further resources:

Why not check out our previous wellbeing blogs?


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