When you are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, there are some lifestyle changes you will need to make. Exercise is one of these important changes. Staying active can help your kidney function and the management of your CKD diagnosis.
If you aren't currently staying active, you will want to talk to your doctor about beginning an exercise program. The type of workouts you do will depend on your current physical fitness level. If you have already been exercising, you will likely be encouraged to continue. Your doctor may also provide advice on alternate exercises if needed.
How Exercise Benefits CKD Patients
Exercise holds a wealth of benefits for everyone, chronic kidney disease patients included. Let's take a look at some of the most helpful reasons that you need to stay active when you've been diagnosed with CKD.
- Weight management – Exercise can help you burn fat and lose weight, if needed. If you are already at a health weight for your condition, working out regularly helps you maintain your weight.
- Lower blood pressure – Staying active keeps your heart working, making it stronger over time. Since you heart won't have to pump so hard to push blood throughout your body, your blood pressure will decrease. With hypertension a very common problem for CKD patients, this may be the primary reason for exercising for many.
- Reduce anxiety and depression – When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that promote happiness. By releasing these on a regular basis, you likely won't feel the affects of anxiety and depression that can come along with having a long-term condition like chronic kidney disease.
- Lessen the decline of kidney function – Because exercise is designed to strengthen your muscles, it's possible to lessen the decline of your kidney functions with exercise. A 2014 study by the American Society of Nephrology found that “12 months of exercise-based rehabilitation significantly slowed the rate of kidney function decline and improved cardio-respiratory fitness compared with standard care.” You might not realize how important exercise is for things like nephrology and hypertension, however, it can have a huge impact on your health and be incredibly beneficial in the long run. Don't forget though that if you are still struggling you should make sure to see a doctor.
Example Exercises to do with CKD
Walking – Perhaps the best low-impact exercise there is, walking is great for almost all CKD patients. You can get started without any equipment, just get out and take a stroll around your neighborhood!
Swimming – Since the water can support your body weight, swimming is seen as a very gentle exercise for those with CKD. Plus, it's a full body workout, proving to be very beneficial for those wanting to live healthy.
Tips to Exercising with Chronic Kidney Disease
It's important that you don't overdo it when exercising. Remember, you want to speak with your doctor before beginning or changing your workout routines.
The following are further tips to help ensure you are exercising properly.
- Be active at least 30 minutes per day, 3 or more days per week. If you feel up to it, you can increase your workouts to 45 or 60 minutes. Just be sure you start slowly, to avoid doing more than your body can handle.
- Stretch before and after each workout. Stretching is important for all people, not just those with CKD. Pre-workout stretches help to loosen up your muscles and prevent injury. After exercising, stretching can help to cool down the muscles and reduce soreness.
- Pay attention to your breathing. When you are exercising, you should still be able to talk to your work out buddy. If you are panting or cannot get more than a few words out, you need to slow down on the intensity.
- Schedule your exercise at the proper times. Avoid working out within an hour after eating a large meal or within one hour of your bedtime. Also, if you are going outdoors to exercise, you will want to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
- Continue to watch your fluid intake. You may want to drink more water and other beverages when you are exercising. When you sweat, you are losing fluids. Talk to your doctor about managing your fluid levels without going over your limits.
- Wear appropriate clothing. When outside, wear light colored clothing made of breathable materials like cotton or mesh. This helps to reduce the amount of sweating, keeping you from becoming dehydrated. Comfortable shoes are also important to ensure you aren't causing your body more problems by exercising with CKD.
Signs you Should Stop Exercising Right Away
There may be times that your body cannot handle the activity you are doing. You may be pushing yourself too far or there could be another serious issue going on. Stop exercising immediately if you experience:
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
As you can see, exercise is a very important part of your chronic kidney disease maintenance plan. It promotes overall well being, and can help your kidneys function longer. Always make sure you working out appropriately for your unique situation! We have a great worksheet with lots of ideas for low impact exercises you can do with kidney disease, sign up below.
Also published on Medium.