Exercise May Aid Kidney Health in Older Adults

Blood sugar concerns and worries about kidney health often go hand-in-hand. But there is good news for people who are concerned about their kidneys. Moderately intense exercise can slow kidney function decline in sedentary older adults.

In the LIFE (Lifestyle Interventions and Independence For Elders) trial, researchers assigned 1,199 people between the ages of 70 and 89 with mobility limitations to moderate-intensity physical activity, a health education course or a control group to study kidney health. People who exercised did flexibility exercises, 30 minutes of walking daily plus 10 minutes of lower-extremity strength training and 10 minutes of balance exercises.

Over two years, the people who exercised saw a significantly slower decline in their kidney function. The people with the highest step count were 38 percent less likely to suffer rapid decline than those who walked the least. Of the people in the study, 29.1 percent experienced a rapid decrease in their kidney function. In the exercise group, 25.9 percent of people suffered from it. In the group that got the education, 32.2 percent of participants saw a rapid decline in their kidney function. Exercising decreased the risk by 21 percent compared to the control group, who were not told to exercise and were never given health lessons.

Clinicians should consider prescribing physical activity and moderate-intensity exercise for older adults to slow the rate of decline of kidney function,” wrote the researchers. But, they said, that the exercise has to be tailored to people; their fitness routine isn’t suitable for everyone.

Keeping an exercise routine can be difficult that’s especially true for people with kidney concerns who may be receiving treatments like dialysis. Some dialysis centers are equipped so you can exercise while you get treatment. Picking an exercise you like, like riding a bike, dancing or jogging, can make a big difference in whether or not you stick with it.  

Speaking to your doctor can help you make a plan. You can learn how much exercise you should be getting and figure out how to do it. Remember that things like cleaning do count. But, to get benefit from it, you should “feel” it — have an elevated heart rate and breathing. However, that doesn’t mean you should push yourself to a point where breathing is difficult, or you are in pain. And, if you are starting from a completely sedentary lifestyle, you shouldn’t jump into a whole exercise routine immediately without your doctor telling you to. Easing in is easier on your body and will make you more likely to stick with it.  

Banner image: Magda Ehlers via Pexels

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