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Chronic Kidney Disease Improved With Exercise


The idea that exercise is good for us is nothing new. In fact, it is one of the oldest known methods that we know of to improve our overall health, after all, why do you think we all had to take gym class? However, things are about to get a little more exciting on the exercise front, especially if you suffer from chronic kidney disease.

Dave Edwards, a professor at the University of Delawares Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, received a National Institutes of Health grant to investigate whether exercise training could improve the health of the blood vessels. Edwards and Danielle Kirkman, postdoctoral researcher, invited early stage CKD patients to take part in a specially designed exercise program, all completed under the expert supervision of UD researchers. The findings were impressive, to say the least.

After analysis, the study showed that the exercise program improved blood vessel health and exercise capacity. Equally as important, patients reported improvements in their everyday quality of life as a result of becoming more active.

At present, it is estimated that more than 26 million American adults have CKD and, because of difficult-to-see warning signs, late detection is common. The leading cause of death in patients with CKD is cardiovascular disease.

What is interesting, however, is that when the study ended, it seems to be only the beginning for the patients. They wanted to continue exercising but lacked a safe, supervised environment.

To meet the demand, Edwards’ lab started a renal rehab exercise program for CKD patients in the community. The program is open to non-dialysis CKD, dialysis patients and those that have received a kidney transplant.

“There are two groups of patients that fall through the cracks — those who have exercised with us and want to continue and those who didn’t qualify for our studies, but wanted to start exercising,” Edwards said.

In order to meet these needs, the team works with individual patients in order to reach their goals, whether it be controlling blood pressure or trying to lose weight for a transplant.

“If you look at other areas like cardiac or pulmonary rehab, exercise training is well-integrated as part of routine care; that’s not the case with kidney disease,” Kirkman said. “Exercise may have an array of health benefits to these patients ranging from keeping their diabetes under control, maintaining healthy muscles and blood vessels to controlling weight gains after a transplant that are associated with prescribed medications.”

This is showing great promise as more and more patients are trying to find an alternative to invasive medicine and exercise comes with countless benefits that go well and beyond kidney health.