Exercise - You Can Do It!
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Exercise - You Can Do It!

By Annie Chylla

Regardless of their type of treatment, people with renal failure tend to lose muscle mass and are at greater risk of bone disease and heart disease. These disease processes can be slowed and possibly reversed by medications, an appropriate diet, and a consistent exercise regimen.

Because of time limitations, and with frequent changes in health status, it’s difficult for people with renal failure to stick to a specific exercise regimen and to increase exercise capacity. But it can be done, and here are four important points to help get you started.

  1. Believe that physical activity will benefit you! Consider physical activity a vital part of your treatment. Without it, your body becomes more and more deconditioned, weakening your muscles and bones. Eventually, it becomes hard to do even simple tasks.
  2. Start slowly! Unlike what is sometimes advertised, exercise shouldn’t hurt. You need to start at a level of activity that feels good to you. Find activities that you enjoy and have fun with them. Don’t push yourself too hard or you’ll end up becoming discouraged.
  3. Be consistent with your activity. Unless you are very ill, try to do some type of physical activity every day. For some, this may be something as simple as arm raises or gentle stretching. For others, it may be a nice walk, bike ride or even a jog.
  4. Don’t compete with yourself or others. It’s human nature to become discouraged if today we’re unable to do as well as we did yesterday. As you know, with kidney failure it’s difficult to maintain a consistent level of health. All kinds of things, such as dehydration, changes in electrolyte balance, medication levels and hematocrit can alter your physical abilities. Just do the time and intensity of exercise that feels right to you each day. One day you might be able to walk for an hour, and the next for only 20 minutes. Be happy with whatever it is you were able to do. The body is challenged either way and adapts to that challenge.

Ask your healthcare team for advice on the type of exercise program that matches your needs.* Start a daily routine that includes 15 to 60 minutes of physical activity adapted each day, depending on how you feel. It will help you maintain strong muscles and bones and a healthy heart!

Editor’s Note: Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor for advice. To learn about specific exercises for people on dialysis, download a free copy of the Life Options booklet, Exercise: A Guide for People on Dialysis. You can download this bookelt here.

Permission received to post the following information:

Name: Annie Chylla
Cause of renal failure: Ureteral reflux
Time on dialysis: 2.5 years
Treatments used: CAPD, CCPD, Transplant
Work/other activities: Exercise specialist—Develop individualized exercise programs for people with kidney and heart disease; Volunteered to develop and maintain Chronic Health educational website at
Date: July 1999