Exercise shown to improve symptoms of patients with chronic kidney disease

Just 12 weeks of aerobic and strength-based exercise reduces symptoms and levels of fatigue in patients with chronic kidney disease, Leicester researchers have shown.

The study was carried out by Leicester’s Hospitals and University of Leicester Kidney Lifestyle Team, led by Professor Alice Smith.

Symptoms were measured in on-dialysis patients with chronic kidney disease using a kidney-specific symptom questionnaire developed by the team. This asks patients to rate on a scale of 0 to 5 how frequent and how much impact 11 different symptoms have on their lives.

The total number of symptoms was reduced by 17 per cent, with large improvements seen in fatigue, with reductions between 10 and 16 per cent. Performing aerobic exercise reduced the symptom ‘shortness of breath’ by 40 per cent, and ‘itching’ by 35 per cent.

By adding strength training exercises, participants reported an increase in ‘muscle strength and power’ by 41 per cent, as well as feeling less weak and having fewer muscle spasms and episodes of stiffness.

Dr Tom Wilkinson, from our Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, said: “Patients with chronic kidney disease experience many unpleasant symptoms, including fatigue and pain. We know that - in general - exercise improves physical fitness levels and strength but until now we had little evidence that exercise also has a significant positive effect on symptoms in this patient group, as well as on their self-reported quality of life.

“We have now shown that exercise has positive benefits on patients’ reported symptoms. These include sleep problems, weakness, muscle spasms and restless legs. To maximise the health benefits, patients should undertake both aerobic and strength training exercises.”

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