Walking: An Ideal Exercise for People with Kidney Disease

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician. Talk with your doctor before attempting any exercise program.

It doesn’t get any simpler than walking to maintain or improve overall health. Walking moves large muscle groups repetitively and can be done indoors or outdoors, quickly or slowly. Health experts say that the average person should get around 30 minutes of exercise a day and considering that there are 24 hours in a day, walking for that amount of time can be achieved. Walking is highly recommended because it can help curb cardiovascular conditions, a major health risk for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and those on dialysis.

A comfortable pair of shoes and commitment to your health is the only requirement. Other than lowering your chance of heart problems, other benefits of walking include:

  • Improved blood circulation
  • Better blood pressure control
  • Stress relief
  • Boost in energy levels
  • Stronger muscles
  • Weight control
  • Restful sleep
  • Sharper memory

Where should I walk?

Whether you’re located in a suburb, a big city or in the countryside, there are areas to walk. Take a stroll around the neighborhood, find nature trails or walk around a shopping mall. If the weather doesn’t permit walking outside, think about investing in a new or used treadmill or elliptical machine. Simply walking up and down the stairs or around your house multiple times can also be an alternative to walking outdoors.

Incorporate walking into your daily routine. Rather than getting into your car or taking public transportation, walk to your destination whether it’s to the store, during your lunch break or to visit a neighbor. Invite a friend along or make it a family affair. Walking with a companion is an inexpensive social activity and can be a great way to catch up while doing something good for the body.

What types of shoes are good for walking?

Comfortable shoes can make all the difference when you’re walking. Footwear technology is advancing and there are many choices. Consider these options:

  • Walking shoes have low treads and solid construction to grip flat surfaces.
  • Running shoes provide more cushion on the ball and heel area to protect the body from impact.
  • Fitness shoes are designed to rock or be slightly unstable. The theory is that the leg and buttock muscles will compensate and become more toned.
  • Trail shoes look like athletic shoes but have rugged treads to grip and stabilize the walker on trails or hikes.
  • Barefoot shoes are the newest technology and offer little to no cushion or support but help build strength and flexibility in the feet.

How do I get started walking for my kidney health?

Getting started on a walking program is as easy as 1-2-3:

1. Warm up the body and stretch before every walk (Be sure to consult your doctor about warm up exercises before attempting them.) It usually takes only five minutes and can be gentle and enjoyable. Here are some suggestions to help you begin (perform each move for 5-10 seconds):

  • Arms: Reach both arms toward the ceiling and clasp your hands together for about 5-10 seconds. Next, stretch your arms out to the side and rotate them forward in a small, circular motion; repeat this by rotating arms backward. Then cross one arm over your chest, using the other arm to hold it in place; repeat move on other arm.
  • Calves, hamstrings and back: Gently bend forward, reaching for toes.
  • Thighs: Standing straight, bend your right knee and use your right hand to guide your foot towards the buttocks. Hold this position and repeat on the left side. If you have difficulties balancing on one foot, hold on to a chair or table to help stabilize yourself.

2. Walk for 30 minutes or more, at least three times per week. If that’s a challenge, do what is manageable and slowly work up to it.

3. Cool down by slowing the pace for the last five minutes of your walk. This allows the body to come back to a more relaxed state.

How much fluid should I consume?

It’s essential to be hydrated while walking, but also important for dialysis patients to stay within their prescribed fluid limits. Consult your healthcare team about how to remain hydrated while walking and still control fluid intake. Also, check labels on water bottles and sports drinks as many brands now have added potassium or phosphorus to these items, something that kidney disease patients need to limit or avoid when possible. Carry a water bottle with you or get a hands-free water bottle that either hooks onto a backpack or athletic utility belt.

Another way to keep from feeling dehydrated is to wear warm weather-appropriate clothes such as short-sleeved shirts and shorts or light weight pants. Go for clothing that is light in color, because darker clothes tend to trap the sun’s heat more easily.

Summary

Walking is one of the easiest ways to improve overall health and maintain an active lifestyle when you have kidney disease or are on dialysis. It may help curb cardiovascular problems, control blood pressure, alleviate stress and become a social activity for you and your loved ones. So go ahead, put your best foot forward and enjoy the health benefits exercise can provide.

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