Indoor Exercises for People on Dialysis

Please note: Consult your doctor prior to beginning any exercise plan.

When you have chronic kidney disease (CKD) and are on dialysis, your doctor may recommend that you get outside for some exercise, such as walking for at least 30 minutes a day. But what if the weather isn’t exactly right for a walk around your neighborhood or another outdoor workout? Even if it’s too cold or too hot outside, you can still get the exercise you need indoors.

Why is exercise important for people on dialysis?

Exercise is important for people on dialysis because it promotes a healthier lifestyle. Exercise can help you in numerous ways. If you are overweight and your doctor suggests that you lose extra pounds, exercise – along with a lower-calorie, kidney-friendly diet – can help. You can also strengthen your muscles with exercise. One of the most important muscles to exercise is your heart. A healthy heart is important, because when you have kidney disease you are at risk for getting heart disease. Exercise can also reduce depression and help you feel happier.

Here are some ways you can benefit from exercise:

  • Improves digestion
  • Increases energy level
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Reduces stress
  • Decreases risk for heart disease
  • Lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels

Basic exercise rules for people on dialysis

Many people on dialysis have medical problems such as heart disease or diabetes that may affect their stamina and ability to exercise. When you start any exercise program, you need to begin slowly, and then gradually work up to heavier weights or longer times. It is best not to exercise on a full stomach, and people on peritoneal dialysis (PD) may find it easier to exercise with an empty abdomen rather than one filled with PD fluid. Exercise can cause blood sugar levels to fall, so people with diabetes need to watch their sugar levels and may need to make adjustments in their medicines. You won’t make much progress if you exercise only once or twice each week, so it is generally better to increase the frequency to 3-4 times per week if you can.

It is fine to exercise to a point where you feel tired and a bit short of breath and your muscles ache afterwards. However, you should not exercise to the point of exhaustion. Symptoms such as chest pain, unexpected shortness of breath, or severe muscular or joint pain should cause you to stop exercising and seek your doctor’s advice.

What kind of indoor exercises can a person on dialysis do?

There are many indoor exercises you can do on dialysis. Before you start any type of exercise, ask your doctor which exercises are best for you. You may want to write out an indoor exercise plan to help you get moving. Online exercise planners and logs are also available.

  • Indoor stretching for people on dialysis

Many patients on dialysis can stretch. Stretching helps warm up the muscles that you plan to work out by getting the blood circulating throughout your body. And one of the best parts about stretching is that you can do it anywhere and don’t need special workout equipment. You can stretch before exercising, as well as afterward to help you wind down. Ask your doctor about the types of stretching you can do and the right way to do it. Ask if there are any precautions you need to take so you do not harm your vascular access.

  • Indoor cardio exercises for people on dialysis

Cardio workouts are important for people on dialysis. Cardio is short for “cardiovascular,” so this type of exercise mainly benefits the heart. If you have a home gym or are looking to put one together, a treadmill or stationary bike can be used for indoor cardio exercise. Not everyone's home can fit a large piece of exercise equipment, so an alternative is to jog in place to get your heart rate up. You can log your progress each day by timing how long you work out. If you have a staircase in your home, walk up and down the stairs for your cardio needs. And if you don’t have stairs, consider going to a local indoor mall for a brisk walk. You may want to grab a friend or family member to go with you. Tell them that you intend to walk around the mall a few times before actually stepping into a store. You’ll get your workout done and afterward you can browse the aisles of your favorite store.

  • Lifting weights for people on dialysis

For people on dialysis who either have an arteriovenous (AV) fistula in their arm for hemodialysis or an abdominal catheter for peritoneal dialysis, lifting weights should be discussed with your doctor first. Your doctor may recommend that you lift light weights to avoid harm to your vascular access. Lifting even light weights every other day can help increase blood flow, build muscle and help you become stronger. Lifting weights can be done while watching television in your home or at your local gym in a weight room.

  • Calisthenics for people on dialysis

Calisthenics are exercises designed to help strengthen and improve the body’s flexibility by using your own weight for resistance. Similar to stretching, there is no need to use workout equipment for these exercises; you can add this type of workout alongside your stretching routine. Calisthenics include:

  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Crunches
  • Squat
  • Dips
  • Calf raises

Exercise videos for people on dialysis

To get both a cardio and strength training workout, you may want to get an exercise video. You can find many workout videos at local retailers, sporting goods shops or video rental stores. You may want to check with your library about renting exercise videos. Exercise video rentals could be a good way to try different workouts that match up with your exercise needs, and checking out videos from the library is free. Some cable or satellite television channels have exercise programs that you may want try out as well.

Indoor activities for people on dialysis

There are a number of indoor activities that people on dialysis can do as a form of exercise. Carrying out different chores around the house, playing with your kids or grandchildren, or organizing a room can get you out of your seat and up on your feet. Here are some activities around the house that can be good exercise:

  • Sweeping
  • Mopping
  • Dusting
  • Vacuuming
  • Laundry
  • Cleaning out your dresser drawers or closet
  • Reorganizing the furniture in a room

And even though you are indoors, consider wearing a pedometer to monitor your steps around the house or in a shopping center. You can log your daily steps in a fitness journal to track your progress.

You can make any of these activities more motivating for yourself by playing your favorite type of music. You could wear headphones, turn up the stereo in your house or play tunes on your computer. Or you may want to watch television while you get through your chore list.

Fluid intake and indoor exercises

If you exercise hard enough indoors, you will likely work up a sweat. It is important to be aware of your fluid intake when you are on dialysis. Before you make any changes to the amount of fluids you drink, talk with your dietitian about your indoor exercise plan. Your dietitian can tell you how much fluid you need to keep you hydrated, and may ask you to monitor your fluid intake and weight changes.


When the weather is too cold or too hot, it’s tough to find the motivation to go outside for some exercise. But working out when you have chronic kidney disease and are on dialysis is important for your overall health. These indoor exercises are great ways to get you moving, and help your heart, too. Make it fun by turning up your favorite music or working out with your best friend. Whether you have a home gym, exercise in your living room, go to a health club or walk briskly around an indoor shopping center, indoor exercise can be done any time of year.