Why is exercise important for patients with chronic kidney disease?


For patients who live with Chronic Kidney Diseases (CKD), they have to make many lifestyle changes for their health. Among them is eating well, changing their diet, and exercising. Dr Suresh Shankar, nephrologist and VP clinical affairs at NephroPlus, says many patients with CKD are less physically active and have reduced physical functioning and performance, compared with those who do not suffer from it.

“Strong research, however, suggests that exercise interventions have the potential to boost several health parameters and outcomes in CKD patients,” he says, adding that inactive lifestyle could be a strong risk factor for poor heart health, and exercise is useful to “pump up overall health and reduce cardiovascular risk”, which is a comorbidity in such patients.

“In the past, the understanding was that vigorous physical activity is additionally harmful to individuals with CKD, but it’s likely because of these beliefs that these patients show a scarcity of participation in exercise activities. CKD patients must follow an exercise program designed to intensify the advantages and minimise risks,” Dr Shankar explains.

According to him, research conducted over the last few decades has shown countless health benefits of exercising regularly in patients with CKD. Some of the key benefits include:

* Increased physical fitness and muscle strength.
* Prevention of muscle wasting.
* Improvement in cardiovascular health.
* Improved nutritional parameters.
* Reduction of chronic inflammation.

“Exercise also improves the quality of life and has also shown psychological benefits such as decreases in anxiety, stress, and depression in CKD patients.”

Things to keep in mind

Dr Shankar cautions that patients with CKD should bear in mind their physical activity limits and stop exercising after they feel “tired, struggling to gasp for breath, sick, or dizzy”.

“Other danger signals include pain, muscle cramps, or a racing heartbeat. Additionally, exercise therapy should be stopped if the patient encompasses a fever, experiences worsening of symptoms, or has another health condition that becomes worse with exercise,” he says.

These patients should be encouraged to participate in regular physical activity, including various styles of exercise training:

– Aerobic exercise training like walking, swimming, or cycling.
– Strength training
– Resistance training
– Flexibility training

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