Fitness for Dental Professionals


It’s that time of year! New Year’s Resolutions have been made (and hopefully not already broken). Perhaps this is the year that you are going to focus on yourself to get fit and strong. If you are a dental professional who has been having some aches and pains, this couldn’t be a better goal! Fitness plays a huge role in the amount of discomfort you are in at the end of a full day of patients. Your body uses many muscles to sit in the positions required throughout the day. There are long periods of time that you hold yourself in a static position. No matter how hard you try, there are always some imperfections in the “neutral posture” you should be maintaining. Your body needs all the help it can get to avoid musculoskeletal injuries which could lead to time off work, and possibly, a loss of income.

First, let me tell you about my personal journey with weight loss and fitness. Three years ago, I weighed 250 lbs. I was a very active person and thought of myself as a “fit, fat person.” My health was good, I tried to watch what I ate, but regardless of how active I was, I could never lose weight. I got sick and tired of being overweight, so I joined a 6-week challenge through a local gym. They helped with meal planning, held 30-minute classes I had to attend at least 4 days a week, and held me accountable through daily check-ins. I lost 24 lbs. during that challenge! I learned how to eat to fuel my body instead of my body holding onto fat. I gained strength I didn’t know I was lacking, because honestly, who wants to admit they are out of shape. Fast forward to today, I have lost 52 lbs. total and am stronger than ever before. I began weightlifting last year and have completely transformed my fitness level and changed my body composition for the better. The most important part of all of this is how much easier it is to do my full-time job as a dental hygienist.

You’re probably thinking, ok, what does this have to do with me? I am not overweight, and I am a healthy person. I don’t want to get “bulky” by lifting weights. I am here to encourage you to try. Unless you are lifting TO get bulky, you will not have huge, overly large muscles. You will have nice toned and tight muscles. Make a change that will impact the longevity of your career and your overall health for a lifetime. As dental professionals, we MUST take care of ourselves if we want to be able to take care of our patients!

Now the fun part! I am going to outline some exercises that dental professionals need the most. This is not an all-inclusive list but highlights important muscle groups we overwork daily. These areas are prone to injury if you don’t have the strength to hold yourself in position. It is best to include these in an overall body strengthening program. Please consult your physician before you start any exercise program. Proper form is a must to avoid injury as well.

Always perform a 5 to 15-minute warm-up through a cardio based activity. A walk or jog on the treadmill, climbing a stair climber, or using an elliptical are all good ways to warm-up.

Flutter Kicks

Laying on your back, raise your legs to a 45-degree angle above the ground and lift your head. Tuck your hands under your tush for extra support of your back. Kick your feet in an alternating motion. Perform this move for 30 to 60-second intervals and repeat three times.

Courtesy Nikole Schram

Sit-ups with Overhead Press

With a weight plate of your choosing (10 lb. is good for beginners), lay on your back. Perform a sit-up and press the weight overhead into a shoulder press. Do 10-15 reps three times.

Courtesy Nikole Schram

Russian Twist

Get a dumbbell between 5 and 15 lbs. Sitting in an upright position with your knees bent, and feet resting on the floor, twist your upper body to the right and the left while holding the dumbbell in your hands. For more difficulty, raise your feet off the floor with your knees still bent and keep them in the air the whole time. Twist 12-15 times per side. Repeat three times.

Courtesy Nikole Schram

Mountain Climbers

In an extended arm plank position, alternate bringing your knees to your chest. Try to do this in rapid succession, so only one foot is on the floor at a time. Do this for 30-60 seconds per set. Do three sets.

Courtesy Nikole Schram


With your elbows on the floor, hold yourself up on your toes. Keep your body level, trying not to dip your hips too low or too high. Hold for 30-60 seconds (or more if you can!). Repeat three sets.

Courtesy Nikole Schram

Lat Pull Down

On a lat pulldown weight machine, select a weight that you think you can use for 12 reps. Start light, as you can always move up. The key to this exercise is to pull your shoulders down first, squeezing your lat muscles, then continue to pull your arms down. Slowly release up. Twelve reps, three sets.

Courtesy Nikole Schram


On a weighted row machine, select your weight. Pull your elbows toward your sides, squeezing between your shoulder blades at the end. Hold your abs tight during this move for proper stability: 12-15 reps, three sets.

Courtesy Nikole Schram

Back Extensions

You can do this exercise with or without weight. Beginners, start with no weight. Lift your upper body to fully extended. For the first part of this move, you should only be using your lower back muscles. Toward the top of the move, you will feel your hamstrings engaging to help you lift. 12-15 reps, three sets.

Courtesy Nikole Schram

As you can see, along with core exercises, it is important to focus on the back as well. Your core consists of all these muscles working together to keep your body stable in sitting positions. After a few weeks, you will notice yourself able to sit taller and more comfortably all day long. Your hips and back and neck will not be aching by the end of the day. The need to visit the chiropractor, OMT, or massage therapist to work out those tight muscles will be less (but please continue to use these specialists as you need). Not only will work be easier on your body, but your body will also reward you with more energy.

It’s the perfect time of year to make big changes for your future. The first few times will make you sore, but keep pushing. The soreness will soon leave. Find a friend or hire a trainer to help keep you going to the gym. You will never regret the hard work once you start seeing results. Best of luck and keep those resolutions on track!

SEE ALSO: Caring for Yourself as a Dental Hygienist

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Nikole Schram, RDH
Nikole is a dental hygienist with a passion for community service. She graduated from Lansing Community College in 2013 with honors. She has been working in a community dental hygiene clinic for five years serving complex need patients. She has an intense desire and drive to improve low-income access to health and dental care through community outreach programs. She is currently involved in the planning stages of a community project called the Dependable Smiles Project to gain funding for periodontal therapies for low-income patients. In her free time, she enjoys riding and showing dressage horses as well as traveling with her husband and three dogs.