5 Exercises for Kidney Patients to Put a Spring in Your Step

April 29, 2022, 9:21am EDT

Two smiling people walking in nature

Say goodbye to cabin fever and hello to spring. Now that the temperatures are rising, it's time to refresh your workout routines by moving outside. 

The benefits of exercising

People who exercise regularly can have good results like:

  • maintaining a healthy weight to prevent or slow diabetes
  • controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • building strength and preventing injuries
  • reducing stress and improving mood

One study even found that people with advanced kidney disease who exercised frequently had about a 50% lower mortality rate than those who didn’t.

Five springtime exercises to inspire you

Your age, physical abilities, and kidney function determine how much exercise and which exercise are best for you. Speak with your healthcare professional before changing or starting a workout routine.

  1. Walk: Walking is an underrated exercise that doesn't get enough credit. All you need is a decent pair of tennis shoes, and you're set. To make it more fun, create a walking group with friends or walk to the beat of your favorite music. 
  2. Hike: Hit the trails for a relaxing workout in the serenity of nature. 
  3. Bike: If you have a bike, now is the time to get it out, dust it off, and start riding. It's an excellent low-impact way to exercise your major muscle groups at the same time.
  4. Community activities: Many community centers offer free or low-cost community-based programs like yoga, baseball, tennis, swimming, and more!
  5. Spring cleaning: Household chores are a great way to get your heart moving so, open up the windows and deep clean the winter away. 

Potential roadblocks

Some people with kidney disease may face the following roadblocks when trying to create an exercise routine:

  • Stamina: Many people know that the kidneys filter waste products from the blood but might not know that kidneys control the production of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen, which the body converts into energy. When the kidneys cannot do these essential functions, people may feel exhausted. Speak with your kidney team if you're struggling with your energy levels. 
  • Creatinine: Creatinine is a waste product produced from regular muscle wear and tear. Depending on your kidney function, you may need to be mindful of the exercises you're doing to avoid a build-up of creatinine. Your healthcare professional will help you determine how much and what type of exercise is safe.
  • Diet: Those with kidney diseases may need to control the amount of protein, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium in their diet. Diet limitations may influence people's energy levels or make it challenging to eat enough important nutrients. Too much may hurt the kidneys, but too little can cause malnutrition and additional problems. Your kidney dietitian can help create a food plan to combat this issue. 

Have questions about these roadblocks? Please speak with your healthcare professional, find a kidney dietitian in your area, or contact our Patient Information Help Line, NKF Cares.

Five tips to keep you on track

Have a hard time creating and sticking to an exercise routine? Here are five tips to help keep you on track:

  1. When to exercise: Aim for three non-consecutive days a week. Rest days are essential. Don't exercise after eating, before bed, or if it's too humid and hot. Stop exercising if your medicines or dialysis schedule changes, if you have a fever, or if your physical condition changes.
  2. Type of exercise: Choose aerobic exercises that move large muscle groups continuously. 
  3. Length of time you spend exercising: Start slow and build up to 30-minute sessions. Be sure to stop if you're breathing too heavily to speak or if you experience intense soreness afterward.
  4. Hydrate: If you have late-stage kidney disease, you may need to restrict how much water you drink. In this case, your physician can help you find the balance between exercising and staying well hydrated.
  5. Creating routine: If you're struggling to stick to a workout schedule, try building it into your everyday routine. You can exercise while watching tv, during your lunch break, or break it into smaller segments throughout the day. Focus on showing up and don't push too hard, especially during the early days. Consistency is key.

NKF Peers

It's not easy to navigate kidney disease and exercise. If you'd like to speak with someone who’s been in your shoes, sign up for NKF Peers. A trained NKF Peers coach will share their story, provide valuable insights, and may inspire you to exercise. 

Click here to get started.