Austin D, May J, Andrade J, Nichols A Exploring barriers, motivators and solutions to achieve a healthy lifestyle among undergraduate student nurses. Br J Nurs. 2022; 31:(4)240-246

Blake H, Stanulewicz N, Mcgill F Predictors of physical activity and barriers to exercise in nursing and medical students. J Adv Nurs. 2017; 73:(4)917-929

Blake H, Watkins K, Middleton M, Stanulewicz N Obesity and diet predict attitudes towards health promotion in pre-registered nurses and midwives. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021; 18:(24)

Damayanti MR, Sudira PG, Karmany NPG, Kristianingsih KN The effectiveness of exercise on the go program to nursing students' physical fitness and quality of life in Bali. Enfermería Clínica. 2020; 30:90-94

Deci EL, Ryan RM Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour.: Plenum; 1985

Department of Health and Social Care, Welsh Government, Department of Health (NI), Scottish Government. UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines. 2019. https// (accessed 5 June 2024)

Dyrbye L, Shanafelt T Nurturing resiliency in medical trainees. Med Educ. 2012; 46:(4)343-343

Evans JMM, Eades CE, Cameron DM Health and health behaviours among a cohort of first year nursing students in Scotland: A self-report survey. Nurse Educ Pract. 2019; 36:71-75

Evans JMM, Andreis F, Cameron DM, Eades CE How does the self-reported health of undergraduate nursing students change during their degree programme? Survey results from a Scottish University. BMC Nurs. 2021; 20:(1)

Lee CT, Ting GK, Bellissimo N, Khalesi S The associations between lifestyle factors and mental well-being in baccalaureate nursing students: an observational study. Nurs Health Sci. 2022; 24:(1)255-264

Reducing Pre-registration Attrition and Improving Retention [RePAIR]. Final report. 2018. https// (accessed 13 June 2024)

Malik S, Blake H, Batt M How healthy are our nurses? New and registered nurses compared. Br J Nurs. 2011; 20:(8)489-496

Michie S, van Stralen MM, West R The behaviour change wheel: A new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. Implement Sci. 2011; 6:(1)

NHS website. Physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64. 2024. https// (accessed 5 June 2024)

Rhodes J, May J, Andrade J, Kavanagh D Enhancing grit through functional imagery training in professional soccer. Sport Psychol. 2018; 32:(3)220-225

Rhodes J, May J, Booth A Penalty success in professional soccer: a randomised comparison between imagery methodologies. J Imag Res Sport Phys Act. 2020; 15:(1)

Rhodes J, Nedza K, May J, Jenkins T, Stone T From couch to ultra marathon: using functional imagery training to enhance motivation. J Imag Res Sport Phys Act. 2021; 16:(1)

Rodriguez-Gazquez M, Chaparro-Hernandez S, González-López JR Are first-year nursing students' lifestyles coherent with their future career?. Int J Nurs Pract. 2017; 23:(2)

Rogers D Which educational interventions improve healthcare professionals' resilience?. Med Teach. 2016; 38:(12)1236-1241

Shekhar R, Prasad N, Singh T Lifestyle factors influencing medical and nursing student's health status at the rural health-care institute. J Educ Health Promot. 2022; 11

Solbrig L, Whalley B, Kavanagh DJ Functional imagery training versus motivational interviewing for weight loss: a randomised controlled trial of brief individual interventions for overweight and obesity. Int J Obes. 2019; 43:(4)883-894

Thwaite TL, Heidke P, Williams SL, Vandelanotte C, Rebar AL, Khalesi S Barriers to healthy lifestyle behaviors in Australian nursing students: A qualitative study. Nurs Health Sci. 2020; 22:(4)921-928

Wang Q, Wang L, Shi M Empathy, burnout, life satisfaction, correlations and associated socio-demographic factors among Chinese undergraduate medical students: an exploratory cross-sectional study. BMC Med Educ. 2019; 19:(1)

Wills J, Kelly M What works to encourage student nurses to adopt healthier lifestyles? Findings from an intervention study.: Medline; 2017

Development of the World Health Organization WHOQOL-BREF quality of life assessment. Psychol Med. 1998; 28:(3)551-558

Engaging nursing students with a behaviour change intervention designed to improve their lifestyle

20 June 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 12



In common with the general population, nursing students struggle to live a healthy lifestyle.


To recruit students in a behaviour change intervention, using the COM-B model of behaviour change to understand engagement.


Nursing students were invited to complete an online survey assessing height, weight, BMI, physical activity, lifestyle satisfaction, motivation for leading a healthy life, and quality of life. Those identified as overweight or not physically active were offered a webinar and social media site to support setting personal goals and boosting motivation to achieve a healthy lifestyle.


25% of invited students engaged with the interventions, 19% attending a webinar and 19% joining the social media site. No statistically reliable differences between those who engaged and those who did not were identified.


Current models of behaviour change do not predict engagement. Interventions may need to be integrated into the curriculum to elicit change.

The health and health-related behaviours of undergraduate nursing students have been widely explored and reported within the UK and internationally over the past two decades. Similar patterns emerge from these studies' findings, including a high prevalence of overweight and obesity (Blake et al, 2021), low levels of physical activity (Malik et al, 2011), unhealthy diets (Rodriguez-Gazquez et al, 2017), frequent use of tobacco and alcohol (Shekhar et al, 2022), and irregular sleeping habits (Evans et al, 2019). Behaviour change interventions intended to improve nursing students' lifestyles face a problem of low uptake (Wills and Kelly, 2017), so the authors sought to provide motivational support, as advocated by the COM-B model of behaviour change (Michie et al, 2011). However, they found that they faced a similar problem, of being unable to persuade student nurses to take advantage of the motivational support. This article reports those experiences, to inform both those seeking to improve student nurses' health and wellbeing, and those using the COM-B model for other behaviour change interventions.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Nursing and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for nurses. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to clinical or professional articles

  • Unlimited access to the latest news, blogs and video content