Following a recent study which revealed 70 per cent of nurses in Scotland are overweight*, UWS students are calling on more institutions to adopt a healthy approach to the nursing curriculum.

Started in 2013, the Fitness Intervention Taskforce aims to integrate physical activity into the nursing curriculum to encourage healthy lifestyle changes across industry professionals and patients.

Student nurses across all three years were challenged to increase their own exercise levels and develop healthy eating plans while learning skills to help them adapt physical activities to meet the needs of their patients.

Julie Orr, Adult Nursing lecturer at UWS and leader of the Fitness Intervention Taskforce said: “Some nurses are allowing their own behaviours to hamper their role of promoting health. To tackle this we are pro-actively embedding physical activity initiatives within the nursing programmes.

“Nurses are in a privileged position to help affect necessary change across Scotland’s healthcare system; they are role models and must lead by example to affect change.

“The approach with our Fitness Intervention Taskforce has been to support students to help them feel more active themselves, experience the benefit of that, and then help them to develop the skills to support those who will be in future care.”

Physical inactivity is the fourth highest risk factor for mortality globally. Getting more exercise has been linked with physical, emotional and social benefits including improved retention, concentration levels, success rates, production at work and less absenteeism. Encouraging students to engage with communities and promote physical activity has longer term benefits for healthcare staff themselves and to the wider society.

Julie said: “Across the duration of the project we have seen our student nurses really get behind this initiative which has had an encouraging effect on their patients. By looking after themselves they are not only improving their own wellbeing but helping to positively impact those in their care.”

The student nurses at UWS have worked with patients with a wide variety of conditions and developed creative ways in which to increase physical activity, for example lower impact activities and games were created for those less mobile and of an older age group.

Throughout their time at UWS, student nurses selected physical exercise champions in their first year to help lead their peers and encourage them to engage in physical activity. Third, final year students are also involved in promoting physical activity to individuals and groups across a life course in a variety of community settings.


* A study published in 2015 from Edinburgh Napier University discovered seven out of ten nurses in Scotland were overweight or obese.


University of the West of Scotland