Exercise it Out: Using Exercise as a Tool to Combat Burnout in Nursing Students

Thumyat Noe ’23

Figure 1: Nursing students often experience high levels of stress and burnout that are detrimental to their work performance.

Nursing students participate in internships at the end of their education to increase efficiency of clinical practices. This transition from student-to work-life is often stressful, causing many nursing students to experience burnout, a psychosocial problem characterized by emotional exhaustion, loss of enthusiasm, and depersonalization. Constant stress and feelings of hopelessness can be detrimental to the well-being and academic success of nursing students; therefore, it is important to find effective coping strategies. Progressive muscle relaxation exercise is one potential coping strategy that involves voluntary tensing and relaxation of major muscle groups. Such actions activate parasympathetic nervous system activity which thereby decreases physiological tension, stress level, and burnout. A team led by Dr. Sıdıka Pelit-Aksu from the Department of Nursing at Gazi University determined the effects of progressive muscle relaxation exercise on clinical stress and burnout in student nurse interns.

A total of 200 nursing students were randomly assigned to either the experimental or control group. After providing their age and gender, students also filled out the Burnout Measure Short version (BMS) form, which measures stress and burnout levels on a 7-point Likert scale, and the Physio-Psycho-Social Response Scale (PPSRS) form, which assessed their coping behaviors on a 5-point Likert scale. Students in the experimental group then attended a workshop during which an experienced nurse taught them how to tense and relax muscle groups throughout their bodies. Researchers instructed students to perform the tensing and relaxing exercises before sleeping for at least 4 days each week for 3 weeks. Afterwards, all students in the experimental and control group filled out the BMS and PPSRS forms again.

Comparison of mean scale scores at pretest and posttest showed that mean posttest BMS and PPSRS scores were significantly lower than the pretest BMS and PPSRS scores. For instance, the experimental group’s posttest BMS score was 2.51 ± 0.93 while the pretest BMS score was 3.64 ± 1.73. Furthermore, the experimental group’s mean posttest BMS and PPSRS scores were significantly lower than the control group: 2.51 ± 0.93 and 3.02 ± 1.17, respectively. Overall, results suggest that progressive muscle relaxation exercise is effective in helping nursing students overcome stress and burnout, which could ultimately improve their internship experiences and allow them to provide the best medical care to patients. Therefore, implementation of such interventions at hospitals would help nurses efficiently fulfill their roles as caregivers.

Works Cited:

[1] S. Pelit-Aksu, et al., Effect of progressive muscle relaxation exercise on stress and burnout in student nurse interns. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care 57, 1095-1102 (2021). doi: 10.1111/ppc.12662

[2] Image retrieved from:


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