Pull Out the Big Guns to Fight Kidney Disease

Strength-training may help combat disease progression

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

(RxWiki News) If you have kidney disease – about 26 million, or one in nine, Americans are afflicted – you might want to hit the gym and find someone to spot you on the bench press.

You read that right.

A recent study from researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles shows strength training can help combat effects of the chronic illness and help patients live longer, healthier lives.

Researchers looked at the effect that lean and fat body mass had on the overall health and survival of 792 dialysis patients.  Those patients with the highest mid-arm circumference were 37 percent less likely to die than those with the lowest circumference, according to the study.

Since strength training increases lean body mass, you’d be wise to at least try your hand(s) at pumping iron. (As always, consult with your physician before beginning an exercise routine, and be sure to work your way up to those heavy weights slowly and gradually!)

“It is possible that interventions that can improve muscle mass or increase lean body mass can lead to better clinical outcomes and greater survival in tens of thousands of dialysis patients and probably millions of individuals with other stages of chronic kidney disease or other chronic disease states,” the UCLA researchers concluded.

Whatever you do, don’t resort to steroids should the urge to get buff grips you.

Anabolic steroids, which may help gain muscle mass, also destroy kidney function, according to a paper recently presented at the American Society of Nephrology's 42nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition. Although you probably already knew that steroids are bad for overall health, little was previously known about the agents’ effect on kidneys.

Of 10 bodybuilders who used steroids for many years, a total of nine – count ‘em – produced protein in their urine (a sign of kidney damage) and developed a severe reduction in kidney function. Nine of the bodybuilders had developed a condition that overworks the kidneys and forms scarring, similar to what is seen in morbidly obese patients.

Lastly, while you’re adjusting to your new strength training regimen, try to keep your cool if someone’s taking too long on the bench press or forgets to wipe the bench down after using it. Increased blood pressure may accelerate kidney disease progression and possibly lead to kidney failure.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 20, 2010
Last Updated:
February 16, 2011