Low-intensity exercise improves efficiency of dialysis, study finds

December 15, 2017 by Stacy Mcguire, University of Calgary
Low-intensity exercise improves efficiency of dialysis, study finds
Clinical kinesiologist Kristen Parker and University of Calgary master’s student Paul Brown worked with renal patient Jim Hutton in their study. Credit: Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Exercise isn't very appealing when you have extreme fatigue and nausea from a chronic illness such as kidney failure. So, when you find out lower-intensity exercise can make a difference, it can be a big relief, says Paul Brown, who graduated from the Master of Kinesiology program at the University of Calgary in 2017. As a student, Brown led a study to find out just how much exercise is needed during hemodialysis, a treatment that uses a machine to filter the body's blood and remove toxins when the kidneys are not functioning.

Previous research suggests exercise is beneficial during hemodialysis, as it helps the body expel toxins such as urea more efficiently. However, Brown says this is the first time a study looked at how intense the exercise must be to make a difference. Results showed that exercise at even a lower intensity imparted a benefit.

"This is great news for those who have to undergo dialysis," says Brown. "Lower-intensity exercise is less intimidating and patients are more likely to enjoy and take part in lighter exercise."

The study required each subject to complete three differing protocols—one dialysis treatment with no exercise, one with lower-intensity exercise, and one with higher-intensity exercise. While exercise made the dialysis procedure more efficient, Brown found no difference between lower- and higher-intensity exercises in terms of dialysis efficiency.

Brown says research shows that patients who exercise during dialysis also have improved aerobic capacity, leg muscle strength and quality of life, and they have lower markers for inflammation and make fewer visits to the hospital.

Kidney disease increasing

Kidney failure rates have tripled in the past 20 years, resulting in an estimated 41,931 Canadians being treated for the disease. Brown says poor diet, lack of exercise and an aging population contribute to this disease. Yet, only a few North American dialysis programs use exercise as a therapy during dialysis.

"You would be surprised at what some of our most complicated patients are able to do if we start them with something small and attainable," says UCalgary alumna Kristen Parker, MKin'04, who co-authored the study with Brown and Kylie Rowed, MKin'16.

Jim Hutton has been exercising during dialysis since 2010 and says he has noticed improvement.

"I feel stronger, have more stamina and am able to walk further each year. I am so passionate about exercising while at dialysis that I get very annoyed if I am prevented from doing so," says Hutton. "It also frees my mind as I spend an hour and a half on the bike and listen to audio books at the same time. I really enjoy that experience."

Parker, who helps Hutton with his exercise regime, says renal rehabilitation research and exercise programming for those on hemodialysis is a rare and poorly funded initiative in both Canada and around the world.

"I hope to see more awareness about the benefits of exercise during and see more renal programs across Canada incorporate as a standard of care," adds Parker, a clinical kinesiologist with the Southern Alberta Renal Program.

Explore further: Aerobic exercise found safe for non-dialysis kidney disease patients

More information: Paul David Stuart Brown et al. Impact of intradialytic exercise intensity on urea clearance in hemodialysis patients, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism (2017). DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2017-0460

Related Stories

Aerobic exercise found safe for non-dialysis kidney disease patients

July 13, 2017
A new study finds that moderate exercise does not impair kidney function in some people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). The study—the first to analyze the effects of exercise on kidney disease that does not require dialysis—is ...

Amount or intensity? Study examines potential benefits of exercise for patients with heart failure

December 6, 2017
Physical activity can benefit patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, a common condition with no pharmacological treatment, but no clear recommendations exist on the optimal amount or intensity of physical ...

Exercise on dialysis: staying active to stay healthy

July 31, 2015
Deakin researchers have launched an Australian-first exercise program to help fight the debilitating physical side-effects suffered by patients undergoing dialysis treatment.

Simple walking program provides physical and mental benefits to dialysis patients

December 1, 2016
In a recent study, a simple exercise program carried out at home improved dialysis patients' walking performance and quality of life. The findings appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology ...

Combating chronic kidney disease with exercise

June 28, 2017
A University of Delaware research team in the College of Health Sciences is combating chronic kidney disease (CKD) with exercise.

New exercise program helps dialysis patients take control of their health

October 21, 2014
Several times a week, Stephanie Thompson breaks out her running shoes and goes to the gym. It's done out of enjoyment, but Thompson, a post-doctoral trainee in the University of Alberta's Division of Nephrology in the Faculty ...

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.