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Exercise and kidney disease

Exercise and kidney disease 

If you’ve just been diagnosed with kidney disease, you probably realize that there will be some changes in your life. These may include starting a kidney diet, taking medications and other lifestyle adjustments, such as quitting smoking or drinking less alcohol. It can be difficult to alter long-standing habits but now that change has become a necessity, it’s an opportunity to try to make some positive adjustments. Exercise can become part of your kidney disease treatment as well as a way to help improve your mental outlook.

Types of exercise for people with kidney disease

Before you make any changes, be sure to talk to your doctor about what level of exercise is appropriate for you. Depending on how much you exercised prior to your kidney disease diagnosis, you may want to start out with something simple and light. Walking is a great way to begin for several reasons:

  • It requires no special equipment (other than a comfortable pair of shoes).
  • Walking is a low-impact exercise.
  • You can walk outside or inside, at work or at home in any season.

At work, it can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to a co-worker’s office instead of calling or sending an email or walking during your break or lunch time.

If you’re home and live in a neighborhood with businesses that are close by, consider walking instead of driving to do such errands as going to the bank, grocery store, shopping or buying a cup of coffee. Even just walking around the block a few times can help get you back into a more active lifestyle. 

If you’ve consulted with your doctor and are ready for more strenuous exercise, you may want to join a gym. If you find the idea of walking on a treadmill or lifting weights boring then consider games that will provide exercise. Golf, softball and tennis are just a few examples of exercises that allow you to raise your heart rate while distracting you from the fact that you’re exercising. Riding a bike is another fun way to exercise. You’re much more likely to stick with an activity that you enjoy than you are with something that seems like work. Any activity that raises your heart rate and causes you to break a sweat is exercise even if it’s fun. In addition, all of these exercises can be done with other people. This may help prevent feelings of isolation due to kidney disease.

Replacing fluids when you exercise

When you exercise enough to sweat, you may need to replace fluids lost through perspiration. People in the later stages of kidney disease may be prescribed a fluid restriction if water retention is a problem, so you may need to be careful with how you re-hydrate. Some people with kidney disease who are on a fluid restriction appreciate exercising because sweating does allow them to increase the amount of fluid they can drink. Consult with your doctor or a renal dietitian about how much and what to drink during and after your workouts.

Benefits of exercise for people with kidney disease

Even for people who don’t have kidney disease, exercise is one of the simplest ways to achieve positive change in your life.  

In addition to the obvious physical benefits such as maintaining a healthy body weight, having more energy and building strength, there are psychological advantages to exercise for people with kidney disease. Exercising may improve your mental outlook. You’re more likely to have self-confidence and to stave off depression. A positive mental outlook can help you better approach and deal with the challenges that may come with chronic kidney disease.


You can use your kidney disease diagnosis as leverage to make other changes in your life that may actually improve your health. You can quit smoking or drinking alcohol, make more healthful diet choices and, through exercise, transform a sedentary lifestyle into an active one. People with kidney disease can enjoy many physical and psychological benefits of exercising.