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

Blake, Holly, Stanulewicz, Natalia and McGill, Francesca (2017) Predictors of physical activity and barriers to exercise in nursing and medical students. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 73 (4). pp. 917-929. ISSN 1365-2648

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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: 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 increase accessibility to workplace health and wellbeing initiatives.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Blake, H., Stanulewicz, N. and McGill, F. (2016), Predictors of physical activity and barriers to exercise in nursing and medical students. J Adv Nurs., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Keywords: Exercise; healthcare students; nursing; physical activity; self-efficacy; social support
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2016 09:36
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 18:36

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