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Curated Fitness: Exercises for CKD
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Curated Fitness: Exercises for CKD

Exercises like walking, swimming, cycling and aerobics are recommended for people with CKD, but at a low pace
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K / Happiest Health

Staying fit matters, more so while dealing with ailments like chronic kidney conditions (CKD). The types of exercise, duration, frequency and how hard one works while doing exercises while dealing with chronic kidney disease must be considered, say experts. Exercises for CKD need to be curated for individual’s needs and they can improve their condition as long as safety protocols are followed.

The significance of exercise for CKD

While curated exercises are deemed safe for individuals with CKD, they are also necessary. Dr Garima Aggarwal, consultant nephrologist and transplant specialist, at Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru explains that engaging in regular physical activity or exercises can play a crucial role in warding off the chronic diseases often associated with CKD and help maintain kidney health. “People with CKD are prone to many other chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension making the kidney disease worse. Therefore, adapting an exercise routine to avoid these conditions is recommended,” Dr Aggarwal explains.

In addition, those undergoing dialysis, a common treatment for CKD, face the risk of protein loss. “Dialysis extracts the protein present in the blood. Hence, insufficient protein intake or if they are following a protein deficit diet along with lack of mobility or an exercise routine, the muscles will eventually wear out, potentially reducing individuals to a state of mere skin and bones in the long run,” she warns.

“Other than these physiological health conditions, people with CKD are also prone to face depression, anxiety and isolation, which might take a toll on their mental health,” says Dr Aggarwal, adding that exercising helps exponentially to declutter the mind.

CKD diet and exercise regime

Dr Vaibhav Keskar, nephrologist and kidney transplant specialist, at Fortis Hospital Mulund, Mumbai, stresses that people with CKD must know what to eat and avoid before planning a CKD workout regime. “Dialysis patients should always consume a high protein diet because they tend to lose protein during the process. In addition, they must consume a low salt diet, low potassium intake, adequate calories,” he says. 

The first-class protein must come from animal sources, such as eggs, meat, fish, poultry, and dairy. “They contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs,” he says. “Millets and vegetables are very good sources of protein, promoting kidney function and overall organ health,” says Dr Keskar. 

Workouts that are safe for people with CKD

Vimal Sharma, New Delhi-based physiotherapist, recalls treating a 58-year-old entrepreneur Rohit (name changed). The man has been undergoing dialysis for about a year now and has stage 4 CKD along with diabetes. “He was suffering from severe back and leg pain and was unable to move around without using a wheelchair,” Sharma explains.

On a fateful day, Rohit suffered from severe muscle spasms. “After his recovery, we introduced a carefully curated CKD workout routine, starting with 10 minutes of walking 4 to 5 times a week. Gradually, we increased the pace for 30 minutes of walking and exercises, along with 5 to 7 minutes of cycling every day within three months,” he explains. “Within seven or eight months he found relief from all muscle-related pain and experienced significant improvements in both his physical and emotional well-being,” he says.

Sharma explains the importance of considering the individual’s age when devising a CKD workout routine. “If it’s an older person with CKD, we have to be cautious and assign an exercise routine that is suitable for their stamina and capacity,” he says.

The severity of the condition is also considered. “People on dialysis should gradually begin walking for about 10 minutes at a slower pace. 3 or 4 times a week is recommended, not every day,” Sharma explains.  “In two to three weeks, the pace is increased, and they can start walking every day for about 15 days,” he says, adding that the pace will be gradually increased and the person will be advised to walk for 30 minutes every day after a month.

What to expect during a CKD workout

The initial phase of the workout will be deliberately paced to prevent the rise in creatine levels. The creatine levels increase when performing rigorous exercise and is not beneficial for people with kidney disease. “The muscles naturally generate more creatine when you exercise, eventually leading to a lot of thirst. However, people with chronic kidney disease shouldn’t drink a lot of water as it will lead to fluid overload and the failing kidneys would not be able to filter them out of the system. Thus, it is crucial not to overburden the patient with a rigorous exercise regime,” he says. 

During exercises, Shama said that the GFR levels (Glomerular Filtration Rate, a rate that will tell us how well kidneys are filtering out waste in our body) will remain unchanged.

Strengthening the muscles to avoid joint pain and weakness is key. “Low-intensity body weight exercises, aerobics, cycling (on a slow setting for two minutes) and even swimming can be tried.” 

Safety protocols are a must ahead of the exercises. Experts emphasize that individuals should not initiate exercises independently but should seek advice from medical professionals to oversee the regimen. Additionally, strict adherence to the prescribed treatment protocol is crucial.

Takeaways

  •   Exercise for CKD is perfectly safe and recommended under medical supervision.
  •   Before starting a CKD workout plan, people must watch out for their diet. 
  •   Exercising for kidney disease helps to improve over health and keep away from chronic conditions. 
  •   Exercises like walking, cycling, aerobics and swimming can be tried, but with low intensity. 
  •   People must monitor their creatinine levels, and blood pressure and must not skip their weekly dialysis while being on an exercise routine. 

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