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Exercise for People with Chronic Kidney Disease

Should I exercise if I have chronic kidney disease?

Talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program or continuing a program you are already on when you find out you have early or late stage chronic kidney disease (CKD). If you are not currently exercising and your physical condition does not prevent you from exercising, your doctor may recommend you start a program.

What kind of exercise should I do?

Depending on your current physical condition and past history of exercise, your doctor will recommend a program suited for you. If you have not exercised in a while, your doctor will want you to start slowly.

I’m already tired from my kidney disease, shouldn’t I rest more?

Adequate rest is important, but exercise may help your kidney condition, particularly if you are in the early stages. Sometimes exercise can help you feel more energetic. People often start an exercise program and find that activities they participated in before are less tiring. This is because their muscles are becoming accustomed to activity.

How does exercise help someone with kidney disease?

Exercise can help you in a variety of ways. If you are overweight and your doctor would like you to lose extra pounds, exercise is a great way to burn fat. Exercise also strengthens muscles. Exercise also helps condition one of the most important muscles in your body, the heart. Besides physical benefits, exercise can also reduce depression and anxiety, as well as improve your psychological well-being.

If I exercise, can I eat restricted foods?

No. Exercise does not give you permission to go off your recommended kidney diet. A diet and exercise program work together. Following one does not mean you can ignore the other. If you notice an increase in your appetite after you begin an exercise program, talk to your renal dietitian. They will coach you to make sure your calorie intake is adequate.

Eating restricted foods can endanger your health and may cause problems if you are on dialysis treatment. Always ask your doctor and renal dietitian about eating foods that are not specified in your early or late stage kidney diet. They can tell you what is allowed and what is not. Many restricted foods are limited because of the high amounts of sodium, phosphorus, potassium, fat or sugar they contain. Discuss any foods you would like to add to your diet with your renal dietitian first.

If I exercise, can I drink more fluids if I’m on dialysis?

If you are exercising and perspiring heavily, you may need to replace lost fluid, depending on which stage of CKD you have.

Tell your renal dietitian about your exercise program. Your dietitian may have you monitor your urine output. If you are urinating less and sweating more, your dietitian may increase your fluid intake. If you do not urinate, your fluid levels will be evaluated. You should talk to your renal dietitian before making any changes to the amount of fluids you are drinking. Your dietitian can give you an idea of how much fluid is good for you and can monitor your hydration. It may take a while to get the proper balance, but if you are giving your dietitian good data, she can determine what is optimal for your body.


No matter what stage of CKD you're in, exercise is important for your overall health. Be sure to consult your doctor before you start any exercise routine and work with your dietitian so you are eating a health diet. Working out and eating right go hand-in-hand.