Chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients may improve their health with simple exercises like walking. Heart disease is a major cause of death among kidney disease patients, and exercise can help reduce the risk of heart disease – and keep the kidneys healthy, too.
The researchers examined the effects of exercise on kidney disease patients for 12 months and assessed their heart disease risk. Twenty patients were randomized to receive either exercise training or standard care.
After the 12-month exercise program, kidney disease rate was significantly slowed and cardiorespiratory fitness improved, in comparison to the standard care.
Lead researcher Sharlene Greenwood said, “Exercise-based rehabilitation has the potential to be a kidney-protective therapy for patients with progressive stages 3–4 CKD, and larger studies are planned. Exercise, besides protecting the kidneys, also will improve fitness, general health, and quality of life, and has the potential to reduce cardiovascular risk, a major cause of mortality and morbidity in patients with CKD.”
In an alternative study carried out by Francesca Mallamaci, the researchers tested the effectiveness of low-intensity, easy-to-complete home exercises on physical performance of dialysis patients. The study included 151 participants who followed a metronome while walking and another 146 patients who maintained their regular physical activity level.
After six months, performing a six-minute walk test was improved among those who followed the metronome, but scores did not improve in the control group.
The investigators concluded, “A personalized, low-intensity home exercise program improves physical performance in dialysis patients. The simplicity and adaptability of the program make it suitable to the needs of a high-risk population such as the dialysis population.”
In chronic kidney disease patients, walking may help prolong life and reduce the risk of dialysis. Physical inactivity is common among CKD patients, so researchers looked into the benefits of walking among 6,363 study subjects. Patients were 70 years of age, on average, and were followed for 1.3 years.
Slightly over 21 percent of patients reported walking as their primary form of exercise. During the follow-up period, walkers were 33 percent less likely to die and 21 percent less likely to require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Researcher Che-Yi Chou explained, “We have shown that CKD patients with comorbidities were able to walk if they wanted to, and that walking for exercise is associated with improved patient survival and a lower risk of dialysis. A minimal amount of walking — just once a week for less than 30 minutes — appears to be beneficial, but more frequent, and longer walking may provide a more beneficial effect.”
Although having chronic kidney disease may have you feeling too tired to exercise, it is important that you get at least some physical activity in to improve health outcomes. Exercise can boost energy levels, make the patient feel stronger, improve joint stability, reduce the risk of falls, improve heart and lung function, and improve blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
There are different types of exercises you can perform, such as aerobic exercise, resistance training, flexibility exercise, and balance exercises. It’s important to pick something that you can perform and enjoy so that you stick with it.
Before beginning any form of exercise, it’s important that you speak to your doctor who can help guide you and offer insight into which exercises best suit you. This is particularly important if you have other conditions alongside kidney disease which may limit your abilities.
When beginning any exercise, it’s always important that you start with a warmup. This promotes blood circulation in the body and warms up the muscles. It is an important step because it helps reduce possible injury or cramping.
Exercise progression should also be slow. If you haven’t exercised in a while, you may want to start with five to 10 minutes at first, and gradually add on more time.
Initially, you will feel sore, but this will decrease over time. If you push yourself more, the soreness will return, but as you improve your fitness level, it will not stick around for very long.
Your goal should be completing 30 minutes of exercise routine, so work your way up to this time. Note that exercise doesn’t have to be daily, but at least every other day is recommended.
You are exercising in a healthy progression if you are able to carry a conversation during your exercise. You should feel completely normal after an hour of exercise – not trying to catch your breath. Muscle soreness should decrease over time, instead of getting worse (unless you have tried something completely new).
Lastly, always remember to cool down – it is just as important as your warmup and workout. This allows your heart rate to gradually slow down and gives you a chance to stretch your muscles to avoid soreness.
Exercise isn’t necessarily something you must perform in the gym. In fact, many household chores can be substitutes for exercise. Some good physical activity options include walking, cleaning the house, gardening, playing a sport, biking, climbing stairs, swimming, cycling, or jogging.
You can even exercise while watching TV by lifting light weights, or standing up from your seat and sitting back down a few times repeated.
Exercise is basically anything that gets you moving and increases your heart rate. Find something you enjoy and stick with it in order to improve your kidney function and your heart health.