Exercise May Benefit Kidney Disease Patients

Chronic kidney disease patients who exercised had fewer risk factors for heart disease than those who did not exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Staying active can be hard, especially when chronic disease gets in the way. But two new studies suggest that chronic kidney disease patients should make time for exercise.

The studies found that exercise programs may improve physical performance and weight in chronic kidney disease patients.

The kidneys are responsible for filtering extra fluids and wastes from the blood. In chronic kidney disease, damage to the organs develops and slowly worsens over time. This limits the kidneys' ability to function.

According to the authors of one of these new studies, led by Sharlene A. Greenwood, MD, of the King’s College Hospital in London, heart disease is the leading cause of death for patients with chronic kidney disease.

Dr. Greenwood and colleagues wanted to explore whether a year-long exercise program would reduce risk factors for heart disease — including being overweight — in these patients.

To do so, they split 18 chronic kidney disease patients into two groups. Eight patients received exercise training three times a week, while the other 10 received standard medical care.

After 12 months, Dr. Greenwood and team found that the exercise group was better off than the standard care patients. The exercise group was an average of 12.35 pounds lighter and had a waist circumference an average of 2.8 inches smaller than the other group.

Dr. Greenwood and team noted that they found evidence that the exercise program could both reduce risk factors for heart disease and improve kidney function, and that further research with a larger number of patients was needed.

The other new study, led by Francesca Mallamaci, MD, of the National Research Council Institute of Clinical Physiology in Reggio Calabria, Italy, involved 297 chronic kidney disease patients. These patients were all on dialysis — a treatment that helps perform the functions of the kidneys when kidney failure occurs.

Around half of these patients (151) were introduced to a low-intensity, at-home exercise program.

After six months, the researchers assessed the patients' physical performance through walking tests and tests that measured their ability to move from sitting to standing.

In the exercise group, the average distance the patients were able to walk in six minutes increased by 134.5 feet. The other patients had no significant change in their walking test results.

After six months, the average time it took the exercise group to get from sitting to standing decreased by 2.2 seconds. The other patients' time decreased by 1.1 seconds — not a significant change, the study authors noted.

"A personalized, low-intensity home exercise program improves physical performance in dialysis patients," Dr. Mallamaci and team wrote. "The simplicity and adaptability of the program make it suitable to the needs of a high-risk population such as the dialysis population."

The studies were both presented Nov. 14 at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week 2014 conference in Philadelphia. Studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The National Institute for Health Research UK funded Dr. Greenwood's study. Dr. Mallamaci and colleagues disclosed no funding sources. The authors of both studies disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 13, 2014
Last Updated:
November 17, 2014