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Nurses tackle obesity statistic with record-breaking active challenge

Nurses across the UK have taken their health into their own hands this month, with a record number participating in a ‘We Active Challenge’ promoting and encouraging daily activity among the community.

Initiated five years ago by the WeCommunities on Twitter, the challenge has seen substantially increased activity this year, with over 15,000 tweets in just 20 days. The premise is that nurses in the @WeNurses community should tweet a photo of each day’s activity in an effort to motivate themselves and their colleagues to continue throughout the month. The hashtag #NursesActive has seen a variation of activity, from nurses taking the stairs, to walking their dogs or going for a swim.

Following the publication of a statistic that more than one in four nurses in England are overweight, with the highest level of obesity found to be among nurses, the WeCommunity facilitated an online discussion where it emerged that nurses are in fact conscious of the issue and are interested in finding ways to address it. Many of them also indicated that they would not only like to be healthier for themselves, but also to present good examples for their patients.  

Nursing in Practice spoke to the people behind @WeNurses to find out about the challenge and why the nursing community has been so engaged this year.

When was the We Active Challenge started and what was the motivation behind it?

The We Active Challenge is now in its fifth year. It was the idea of the @WeAHPs [allied health professionals] community and joined later by nurses, with the intention to spend a month being more active as healthcare professionals, focusing on August when the days are often long and warm and sometimes dry. But the idea is to make the personal August changes habitual. 

Especially for nurses, we know that being active can prove a challenge, and there has been much discussion about obesity in nursing and this is @WeNurses way to role model and empower positive visibility of being active, which links to wellbeing too. 

Social media has played an important role in the campaign. Why is it that nurses are so engaged in the campaign?

Our communities are extremely constructive, action-based and are there to learn and support one another via Twitter, both clinically and beyond. The pressures on the workforce related to nursing numbers mean that those that we do have need to be fit and well. We are not shy of tackling the obesity issue in nursing.

How important is it for nurses to find time for exercise and self-care?

Hugely important. Many of the discussions we have had in the community about general health and wellbeing regularly throw up the pressures of long shifts, inability to eat well on duty and the cost of eating well. This campaign is more about being active than exercise. Even though the two are very similar, we are looking for small, sustainable changes in mindset about activity/exercise. This campaign is as much about empowering nurses to take care of themselves emotionally as well as physically. 

Here are some examples of #NursesActive tweets: