Get Moving to Ease Kidney Disease

Kidney disease patients may slow the decline of kidney function through regular physical activity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Kidney disease, which many diabetes patients develop, does not have to be a death sentence. In fact, it is treatable, and exercise may be key to putting the brakes on its progression.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects about 60 million people globally. The condition increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, disability and death. While few ways have been identified to slow the progression of CKD, scientists have recently found that exercise can help preserve kidney function.

"Exercise regularly to help maintain kidney function."

Cassianne Robinson-Cohen, PhD with the Kidney Research Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle and her collaborators analyzed data on 256 patients, average ages 59 to 62, participating in the Seattle Kidney Study. This research study involved more than 650 men and women with kidney disease from the Seattle area.

After following patients for an average of 3.7 years, investigators observed that exercise was inversely associated to kidney function decline. Each hour-long increase in physical activity weekly corresponded to a 0.5 percent slower decline per year in kidney function.

Scientists measured kidney function by the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) in patients. This is a test used to evaluate how well the kidneys are working. Specifically, it estimates how much blood passes each minute through the tiny filters in the kidneys, called glomeruli.

The investigation highlighted that patients with moderate to severe kidney disease who exercised more than 150 minutes per week had the lowest rate of kidney function decline.

Dr. Robinson-Cohen told dailyRx News, “Our results suggest that increased levels of physical activity may slow the progression of chronic kidney disease. Even small amounts of light exercise, such as walking for 15 minutes per day, using a stationary bicycle or an elliptical machine might help slow CKD progression. Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.”

The study focused mainly on aerobic exercise of light to moderate intensity, including walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing, according to Dr. Robinson-Cohen.

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) says that regular exercise not only increases energy, it also improves muscle function and strength, blood pressure, levels of blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides), sleep, and body weight.

NKF recommends that kidney patients check with their doctor about the types of exercise they should do, as well as the duration, frequency, and intensity of their physical activity.

The study was published online on Dec. 12 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).


Review Date: 
December 13, 2013
Last Updated:
December 13, 2013