Regular Exercise Improves CKD Symptoms And Slows Down Kidney Disease Progression!

The History Of Fitness and Chronic Kidney Disease

Fitness and regular exercise’s relationship to CKD has long been touted as having a beneficial effect. A study presented by Renal Physiotherapist Sharlene A. Greenwood of King’s College London at 2014’s Kidney Week followed people living with Stage 3 and 4 CKD and this group was assigned a specific exercise program, consisting of exercise sessions three times per week.

Each program was customized to suit the individual fitness levels and limitations of the patient, but aerobics were the predominant method assigned to most participants. At the conclusion of the 12 month study period, kidney function was assessed by drawing a comparison between rate changes in creatinine-based eGFR levels prior to initiating their fitness regimens and after.

The results were very promising with:

  • Improved eGFR levels
  • An average of 12 pounds lost
  • An average of 3 inches off waist circumference
  • Lung capacity was also found to have increased.

People who suffer from chronic kidney disease typically experience a diminished ability to perform physical fitness but what ever level CKD patients are capable of performing at is still a vital component of preserving and supporting whatever kidney function is left.

Recent Developments…

A more recent study has shown that just twelve weeks of aerobic and strength training exercise can reduce symptoms and levels of fatigue in patients who have chronic kidney disease.

Researchers divided 36 patients with chronic kidney disease into 2 groups. Both groups completed exercises like aerobic, walking and cycling and also strength training and leg presses 3 times a week.

In both groups, the number of symptoms was reduced and they had much improvement in fatigue, as well.

The strength training exercises also proved to be beneficial in muscle strength and patients seemed to have a lot fewer muscle spasms and episodes of stiffness. It is well-known that patients with chronic kidney disease suffer from many symptoms such as pain and fatigue, but it is obvious now that exercise is one way of combating these symptoms as well as improving their quality of life.

Other improvements due to exercise include sleep problems, weakness, muscle spasms and restless legs. One 80 year old female participant in the trial said, “I found that the exercise routine was brilliant, my muscles were really strong afterwards and I felt really, really good; really, really well. I felt great, actually.”

Other improvements besides physical fitness that exercise can offer for patients with chronic kidney disease are blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetic control.

It is advised that before starting any exercise program, patients with chronic kidney disease consult with their doctor first. That being said, here are a few exercises found to be particularly beneficial for people with CKD.

fitness kidneys

Exercise is a vital component of managing CKD.

Best Exercises For CKD

  • Walking. Daily walks are a great low-impact way to get some fresh air (if you do it outdoors), lower blood pressure and blood glucose and reduce your BMI.
  • Aqua Aerobics, like Aqua Zumba. These may seem a bit unusual to some, but if you love the water and need a lower-impact regimen, aqua aerobic programs can help you burn significant calories while also strengthening muscles and bones, improving range of motion and even relieving chronic pain.
  • Stationary Bicycle. This is one of the preferred methods for people with CKD, and can even be performed while undergoing hemodialysis. You can reap all the same benefits from biking in a way that’s more convenient for your schedule.
  • Resistance Exercises like wall push-ups are a simple way to begin building up strength and improving blood flow. To do a wall push-up, position both hands on a wall, stretch out until you’re on your toes and push forward towards the wall, repeating and returning to original position. 
  • Yoga. Another great low-impact exercise perfect for those with CKD is yoga. It can help improve flexibility and oxygen flow and also helps to reduce stress and foster a much-needed sense of calm for those struggling with chronic illness. 

The benefits of fitness on CKD have been well-documented in our past articles, so be sure to take a look. And for more excellent tips on how to support more normal kidney function and manage the other medical conditions linked to CKD, be sure to follow us all across social media!




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1. Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression.