Exercise and Dialysis
Exercising regularly is important for staying fit and mentally healthy throughout your treatment journey.
Staying active while on dialysis has a variety of physical and psychological benefits. Regular exercise may improve your self-esteem, keep you mentally and physically stimulated and give you new opportunities for social interaction. Exercise may also make you feel “more like yourself” and help you regain your physical and emotional ability to do the activities you did before your diagnosis. Before you start any physical activity, talk to your clinician about what options are best for you.
Physical and Emotional Benefits of Staying Active on Dialysis
Physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, whether or not you are on dialysis. Exercise, in combination with a kidney-friendly diet, can help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your muscles and maintain a clear head and positive mindset. Regular physical activity is especially important for helping to keep your heart healthy. This is very important when you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), which puts you at increased risk for developing heart disease.
Regular exercise can help you maintain your physical and mental health while on dialysis by:
- Increasing your energy level
- Helping you control your weight
- Improving your digestion
- Improving the quality of your sleep
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Decreasing your risk of heart disease
- Helping you control your blood sugar and blood pressure
- Helping you fight depression and remain positive
- Lowering your cholesterol levels
- Giving you opportunities for social interaction
- Strengthening your muscles
Choosing activities that you enjoy can go a long way in helping you stick to your exercise plan throughout your treatment journey. Talk to your clinician about what types of exercise will be comfortable and suitable for you. Also consider looking for opportunities to be active with friends or family in order to make the experience more fun.
What Kind of Exercise Can I Do?
When you’re on dialysis, there are many types of physical activity you can enjoy. Exercising on dialysis may be as simple as taking regular walks. However, if you’re able to do other activities, your clinician can recommend a number of different outdoor exercises you can do, if the weather permits. Otherwise, there are a variety of exercises you can do indoors.
Outdoor exercises you can do while on dialysis include:
- Brisk walking
- Leisurely walking
Indoor exercises you can do while on dialysis include:
- Walking or jogging on a treadmill
- Indoor cycling
- Swimming (depending on your treatment choice)
- Using exercise equipment
Anyone on dialysis can exercise. However, it is important that the type of activity you do is appropriate for your age, level of ability and physical condition. Before you start any specific exercise, it is important you discuss this with your clinician. Making an exercise plan may be a good way to keep track of how much or how little you’re moving and keep you accountable for sticking to your health goals.
Some dialysis patients have other medical issues that may affect their ability to exercise regularly. Diabetes and heart disease are two of the most common. If you have these conditions, you should consult with your doctor before starting to exercise, and then start your exercise plan slowly, increasing the intensity and length of your activities over time.
Rules for exercising on dialysis differ from person to person, but there are a few general guidelines you should keep in mind when planning your activities.
If you’re on PD, you should avoid exercising when your peritoneal cavity is full of dialysis fluid. You may find being active with a full abdomen very uncomfortable. If you have diabetes, be sure to pay attention to your blood sugar levels. They can fall when you exercise, and you may have to adjust your medications accordingly.
Exercising even once or twice a week may be beneficial for your health. But it is ideal that you exercise at least 3 to 4 times per week, if possible. This said, don’t exercise until you’re exhausted. If you experience any pain or other physical difficulties, stop exercising and contact your clinician for advice.
Fluid Intake and Exercise
Keeping the fluids in your body balanced is extremely important when you’re on dialysis. Be aware that your body will lose more fluid than usual when exercising. You should talk to your clinician about whether and how to change the amount of fluid you drink while you are exercising in order to ensure that you’re staying hydrated and avoiding fluid imbalance. Dialysis patients frequently have water and other fluid restrictions, so you’ll want to be sure to discuss this with your clinician or nurse.
Where to go next?
Adopting a Kidney-friendly Diet
A kidney-friendly diet can go a long way in helping you feel and do your best throughout your treatment journey. Learn more about your diet and dialysis.
Traveling on Dialysis
It may still be possible for you to travel while you’re being treated for chronic kidney disease (CKD). Learn more about traveling on dialysis.
It is possible for you to maintain intimate relationships while you’re on dialysis. Learn more about intimacy and dialysis.