Exercise for Dialysis Patients

Many people on dialysis think they cannot exercise. The truth is, most dialysis patients CAN exercise. In fact, regular exercise is the first activity that helps many people on dialysis feel “normal” again. This is partly because exercise can help you return to the activities you enjoyed before dialysis. Whether it’s returning to work, conquering household chores, resuming a healthy sex life or managing your own health care, being able to perform these activities can help you feel more like yourself again. 

To get started, take these three steps:

1. Talk with your doctor.

The most important thing to do is talk to your doctor. They can tell you what exercise is best for you according to your current stage of kidney disease and treatment. Most likely, your doctor will be happy you are asking about exercise. They can also help you connect with a physical therapist. These are the experts who help people with all sorts of ailments begin to exercise. Together, your doctor and the physical therapist can watch your progress, help you monitor your activity level and make your exercise program fun.

2. Explore exercise options.

There are many options for exercise that are easy to add to your life. You may want to start with stretching—which nearly all dialysis patients can do and makes it easier to exercise. Proper stretching reduces the chance of cramping and helps you to exercise more comfortably. Walking is another good starting point. Walking is one of the least strenuous exercises we can do and is one of the healthiest. Walking helps with many bodily functions all at the same time.

Exercise, in general, helps with:

  • Digestion
  • Energy
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Blood sugar levels and blood pressure
  • Heart disease risk
  • Sleep
  • Stress

3. Get started—even if you’re lacking energy.

Many people on dialysis feel too tired to exercise and think exercise will make them even more tired. The fact is, even a little bit of exercise (15-20 minutes a day) will help give you more energy. Not exercising can lead to lower energy and more tiredness.

Along with tiredness, you may feel weak. This is because muscle wasting often accompanies kidney failure. If you exercise, however, you can help keep your muscles from shrinking. You may even be able to get back the muscle that you lost if you exercise regularly. But, the longer you wait to exercise, the more likely you are to become tired and weak.


  • Remember, nearly every dialysis patient can do some type of exercise. 
  • Ask your doctor before starting an exercise program. Your doctor can help you decide what is best for you and offer ideas you may enjoy.
  • Start slowly with stretching, and always stretch before and after you exercise.
  • Exercise will help build energy and reduce your risk for other illnesses. 
  • Exercise can help you to feel, eat, think and sleep better.

So, what are you waiting for? Talk to your doctor about exercising now.