Pedometers help nursing students boost health and fitness

Nursing students and trainee midwives are counting each step as they aim to reduce the prevalence of obesity in their profession.

Nursing students and trainee midwives at Edinburgh Napier University have been given pedometers to boost their health and fitness after research revealed 70% of nurses in Scotland are overweight or obese.


First year adult nursing student Arianne Burton with her pedometer

A study by the university published earlier this year found 69.1% of Scottish nurses were overweight or obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more. This is compared to 51.3% of other healthcare professionals.

Now the university has given each of its 650 new recruits on nursing and midwifery courses pedometers, electronic devices which fit onto belts or in pockets and record the number of steps the user takes.

Step in the right direction 

While the average person takes between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day, NHS Choices recommends aiming for 10,000 (about five miles a day) to build stamina and burn excess calories.

The study in January was part of the university’s Nurses’ Lives Research programme, which gathers evidence about the careers, health and lives of nurses to develop a clearer understanding of the challenges faced by the profession.

University nursing programme lead for adult health Ailsa Sharp said: ‘I was shocked and surprised by the findings published earlier this year.

‘We decided to try out the pedometers as an incentive, particularly for those who take limited exercise, to try to improve their fitness levels.

‘As an educator, I am acutely aware that nurses aren’t able to care for others if they don’t first look after themselves. That’s why we put students’ own health at the heart of our new nursing curriculum.’

Healthy campuses 

January’s study, which looked at the BMI of 13,483 people working in health and caring roles, prompted health unions to call for the NHS to tackle the issue by providing proper meal breaks and healthy food in canteens for staff working unsocial hours.

The Nurses’ Lives team has joined forces with the university's school of computing for the pedometer scheme, which aims to use wearable technology to promote healthier lifestyle choices.

Casper van Splunter, a masters student on an internship from VU University in Amsterdam, worked with Nurses’ Lives and computing staff on research into how using wearable technology to monitor health affected behaviour.

He said: 'When I spoke with student nurses during my internship in Edinburgh I found that even if students have a little insight into their health, such as body fat percentage or dehydration levels. It made them think about the issues involved.

'So even though it seems very simple, a pedometer might help nurses to think about and try to improve their own health.'

Further information

Alarm over high obesity rate among nurses in Scotland

Prevalence of overweight and obesity among nurses in Scotland: A cross-sectional study using the Scottish Health Survey