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Exercise and kidney disease

Physical activity is crucial to your health and wellbeing. Find out how much you should do, and for how long, and how to safely exercise on dialysis.

An older man exercises with dumbbells

Exercise and kidney disease

Physical activity is crucial to maintaining your overall health and wellbeing. This doesn’t mean running a marathon – there are many things that count towards physical activity such as walking, cycling, gardening or other incidental exercise, such as shopping or playing with your kids or grandkids.

Doing any physical activity is better than doing none, so if you’re unsure about what you can achieve, start with small amounts and slowly build up over time.

Staying active may become more difficult as your disease progresses, but it’s still very important. Try to factor physical activity into your routine wherever possible and think of it as part of your treatment.

Exercise and dialysis

There is a growing evidence that physical activity is beneficial for people on dialysis and may help to prevent negative side effects associated with treatment. While there are a few special considerations, you can do any activity you can tolerate.

  • Ensure you protect any tubes or veins you use for dialysis. If you’re unsure, talk to your healthcare team or occupational therapist about how you can protect them.
  • If you have a catheter, it’s recommended you do not swim. If swimming is important to you, ask your dialysis healthcare team about your options.
  • If your stomach is full of peritoneal dialysis fluid, physical activity could be uncomfortable or cause a leak. Talk to your healthcare team for advice on how you can stay safe.

Sometimes there is exercise equipment at your dialysis unit that you can use, such a pedal machine or resistance bands. Resistance bands are great for improving muscle strength and you can even reference the handy prompt cards to use them while in your dialysis chair.

You can also refer to the video below.

If your unit doesn’t have resistance bands, you can buy them from health and fitness stores, or online. As always, discuss your interest in them with your healthcare team before attempting any of the exercises.

For further tips on how to stay active on dialysis, you can download our Exercise on Dialysis instruction manual.

Download our handy prompt cards