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J Adv Nurs. 2017 Apr;73(4):917-929. doi: 10.1111/jan.13181. Epub 2016 Nov 8.

Predictors of physical activity and barriers to exercise in nursing and medical students.

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School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, UK.
School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, UK.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, UK.



To investigate physical activity levels of nursing and medicine students, examine predictors of physical activity level and examine the most influential benefits and barriers to exercise.


Healthcare professionals have low levels of physical activity, which increases their health risk and may influence their health promotion practices with patients.


We surveyed 361 nursing (n = 193) and medicine (n = 168) students studying at a UK medical school.


Questionnaire survey, active over 12 months in 2014-2015. Measures included physical activity level, benefits and barriers to exercise, social support, perceived stress and self-efficacy for exercise.


Many nursing and medicine students did not achieve recommended levels of physical activity (nursing 48%; medicine 38%). Perceived benefits of exercise were health related, with medicine students identifying additional benefits for stress relief. Most notable barriers to exercise were as follows: lack of time, facilities having inconvenient schedules and exercise not fitting around study or placement schedules. Nursing students were less active than medicine students; they perceived fewer benefits and more barriers to exercise and reported lower social support for exercise. Physical activity of nursing and medicine students was best predicted by self-efficacy and social support, explaining 35% of the variance.


Physical activity should be promoted in nursing and medicine students. Interventions should aim to build self-efficacy for exercise and increase social support. Interventions should be developed that are targeted specifically to shift-working frontline care staff, to reduce schedule-related barriers to exercise and to increase accessibility to workplace health and well-being initiatives.


exercise; healthcare students; nursing; physical activity; self-efficacy; social support

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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