Physical Activity Enhanced Kidney Patients' Lives

Kidney failure patients on dialysis got physical and mental lift from exercise

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

(RxWiki News) Exercise can be an effective natural “medicine.” It can help reduce high blood pressure and lower blood sugar. For those with kidney failure, it may prolong life and boost mental health.

The National Kidney Foundation has also long touted the benefits of aerobic activity for patients with kidney disease.

Scientists have recently found that these benefits extend to kidney failure patients who are on dialysis. In a recent study, exercise appeared to provide dialysis patients with a lift in physical and mental health.

This study was led by Antonio Alberto Lopes, MD, from Federal University of Bahia in Brazil, and Ronald Pisoni, PhD, with Arbor Research for Collaborative Health in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

These researchers and their colleagues followed 5,763 individuals who were receiving dialysis for kidney failure.

Patients who are on dialysis have kidneys that are no longer able to function at a level needed for day-to-day life. Dialysis is an artificial process for removing waste and extra water from the body when the kidneys can no longer filter toxins from the blood.

The patients in this investigation were receiving maintenance hemodialysis (MHD) for their kidney disease. This process removes blood from the body and sends it through a filter system that helps take out harmful substances from the blood. Then the blood is returned to the body. This can be a two- or three-hour procedure that must be done two or three times a week.

After an average follow-up of about one and half years, Dr. Lopes and colleagues found that health-related quality of life improved for those getting aerobic activity.

They also noted a link between aerobic exercise and a lower risk of depression and premature death.

The authors calculated that those who were very active were 40 percent less likely to die during followup than those who never or rarely had much exercise.

Strength and flexibility activities, however, were not associated with these improvements.

Dialysis patients are much more likely than the general population to develop heart disease. Some may experience heart failure when the heart does not pump blood as well as it should.

In this study, the researchers saw that dialysis patients with heart failure did not prolong their lives with aerobic activity. Exercise, however, seemed to positively affect their health-related quality of life and improve depressive symptoms.

When patients start dialysis, physical activity is often severely reduced, according to the authors. They noted that levels of aerobic physical activity were higher among patients who were offered an exercise program through their dialysis centers.

"Our results call attention to opportunities for potentially improving the health of patients on hemodialysis through counseling for physical activity and the promotion of exercise programs in nephrology clinics," the authors wrote.

The study was published October 2 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN). One research author receives funding from Baxter Healthcare, Inc. and serves on an advisory board for Amgen, Inc. All other authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 1, 2014
Last Updated:
October 8, 2014