Exercise Saves Lives

Kidney transplant recipients need to get moving to live longer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Recipients of kidney transplants should get some exercise. According to a recent study, low physical activity increases a transplant recipient's risk of early death.

Study after study has shown the benefits of physical activity. Even healthy individuals have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease if they do not get some exercise. Patients with chronic kidney disease are especially susceptible to cardiovascular disease. After receiving a kidney transplant, patients are four to six times more likely than the general population to die from cardiovascular causes. As such, it is important for kidney transplant recipients to maintain a healthy heart by getting some exercise.

Until this recent study, no one had looked at the relationship between low physical activity among kidney transplant recipients and the risk of dying early from heart-related or other causes.

In a study involving 540 kidney transplant recipients, Dorien Zelle, from the University Medical Center Groningen, and colleagues measured the physical activity and death rates of patients. Throughout the length of the study, 81 patients died, with 37 of those deaths a result of heart-related complications.

The researchers found that the rate of deaths increased as the level of physical activity decreased. Heart-related deaths occurred in more than 11 percent of inactive patients, compared to about seven percent of moderately active patients and 1.7 percent of active patients. Deaths resulting from any cause occurred in 24.4 percent of inactive patients, 15 percent of moderately active patients, and 5.6 percent of active patients.

While the researchers found a link between lower levels of physical activity and increased risk of earlier death, Dr. Zelle notes that they have yet to determine if increased amounts of exercise will improve the health and extend the length of life of transplant recipients. Researchers are currently designing studies to analyze the potential benefits of physical activity for kidney transplant recipients.

Kidney transplants can drastically improve and prolong the lives of patients with chronic kidney disease. However, less than 20,000 kidney transplants are performed each year at an average cost of $259,000 per transplant. In the meantime, almost 84,000 patients are awaiting transplants. In 2007, nearly 88,000 patients died from end-stage renal disease.

The study by Dr. Zelle and colleagues is published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 4, 2011
Last Updated:
March 5, 2011