THURSDAY, Oct. 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Aerobic exercise may improve the physical and mental health of kidney dialysis patients and may also extend their lives, new research suggests.
The study included more than 5,700 kidney failure patients on dialysis who were followed for a median of 1.6 years.
Those who did aerobic workouts had fewer symptoms of depression, better health-related quality of life and were 40 percent less likely to die during the study than those who were did little or no exercise.
These benefits were similar regardless of patients' age, sex, length of time they'd been on dialysis, and diabetes status.
While this study found an association between aerobic exercise and mood, quality of life and risk of an earlier death, it wasn't designed to prove that exercise was the direct cause of these improvements.
Aerobic activity wasn't linked to an earlier risk of death for those on dialysis who also had heart failure. However, aerobic exercise was associated with a reduced risk of depression and an increased health-related quality of life for dialysis patients with heart failure.
Strength and flexibility exercises did not provide the same benefits as aerobic workouts, according to the study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Nephrology is the medical specialty that cares for people with kidney diseases.
"In addition, aerobic physical activity levels were found to be higher for patients treated in dialysis units offering an exercise program compared with units not offering an exercise program, pointing to the possibility to improve patient physical activity levels through greater availability of such programs for hemodialysis patients," study author Dr. Antonio Alberto Lopes, of the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil, said in a journal news release.
"Our results call attention to opportunities for potentially improving the health of patients on hemodialysis through counseling for physical activity and the promotion of exercise programs in nephrology clinics," Lopes added.
Two other studies in the journal found that depression in dialysis patients increased their risk of hospitalization, and that older adults with kidney dysfunction were at increased risk for mental impairment, depression, exhaustion, falls and mobility problems.
The National Kidney Foundation has more about dialysis.