Walking Benefited Immune System of Kidney Patients

Walking improved immune function and reduced systemic inflammation in chronic kidney disease patients

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

(RxWiki News) Walking is a safe and healthy exercise for most people. Patients with chronic kidney disease get some important health benefits from walking.

Infection and heart and vessel disease are the chief causes of illness and death in patients with chronic kidney disease. 

A recent study on people with chronic kidney disease showed that short walks increased infection-fighting white blood cells and longer walks helped to decrease inflammation associated with heart disease.

"Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program."

The team of researchers behind this study was led by Nicolette C. Bishop, PhD, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, UK, and Dr. Alice C. Smith, from the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Leicester, UK.

To test the effect of a short exercise time, 15 chronic kidney disease patients walked on a motorized treadmill at a very slight incline for 30 minutes. The test was repeated six months later. Blood samples were taken immediately after exercise and one hour later.

To test the effect of regular exercise, 13 patients participated in an at-home walking program of at least 30 minutes of walking five times a week. Blood samples were taken from the patients at the beginning of the study and after six months of the walking program. Blood was drawn from 11 patients who were not on the walking program to serve as controls for the study.

The blood samples were tested for numbers and types of white blood cells (the main cells of the immune system) and for proteins that signal general inflammation, called IL-6 and IL-10. Another protein in the blood, called elastase, was measured as an indicator of the white blood cell’s ability to fight bacteria.

Compared to before exercise, the total amount of white blood cells increased in patients after short walks and was still increased one hour after walking. Before exercising, the total amount of white blood cells were about 6,600/mcl, after walking the amount was 7,500/mcl, and one hour later, the total amount of white blood cells was 7,200/mcl. All of these values were still within the normal range of 3,500/mcl to 10,500/mcl, but the white blood cell numbers immediately after walking and one hour later were significantly increased compared to the pre-walking numbers.

Elastase increased after walking compared to before walking. IL-6 and IL-10 also increased after walking and stayed increased one hour after walking compared to before walking.

After regular walking for six months, changes in the amounts of IL-6 and IL-10 signaled decreased overall inflammation in the body, whereas these changes were not seen in blood samples from the control patients who were not on the walking program.

The numbers of two different types of white cells, called CD69 and CD86, were decreased in the group of regular walkers compared to patients in the control group. Reduction in these white cells indicated less inflammation in the group of regular walkers.

“These findings provide compelling evidence that walking exercise is safe with regard to immune and inflammatory responses and has the potential to be an effective anti-inflammatory therapy in pre-dialysis CKD [chronic kidney disease],” the authors concluded.

Dr. Viana, a co-author of the study said, “Thus, exercise exerts anti-inflammatory effects in patients with kidney disease and may in this way reduce their high risk for heart disease.”

This study was published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Grants from the Kidney Research UK and the Portuguese Foundation of Science Technology provided funding for this research.

The researchers declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 2, 2014
Last Updated:
April 3, 2014