THURSDAY, Aug. 22, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise can be safe and effective in people with kidney disease, even if they have other related health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, researchers have found.
According to the new study, a structured exercise and lifestyle program can improve kidney patients' fitness, body composition and heart health, and this type of regimen can be offered to kidney disease patients with other co-existing medical conditions.
The program included 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise and group counseling about behavior and lifestyle changes. A health care team including a kidney specialist, a nurse practitioner, an exercise physiologist, a dietitian, a diabetes nurse and a psychologist were involved in helping the patients keep on track, the researchers explained in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.
A total of 83 patients with chronic kidney disease were randomly assigned to either take part in the program or receive usual care.
When the study began, only 45 percent of the participants were able to meet the exercise capacity expected for their age group. Patients who took part in the exercise program for one year showed an 11 percent increase in their maximal aerobic capacity, while those in the usual care group had a 1 percent decrease.
Patients in the program also had small but significant amounts of weight loss, according to the study published online Aug. 22 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
"We demonstrated that this could be done safely in spite of patients having a number of other health problems. This was in part because of the expertise of the multidisciplinary team, who frequently adjusted diabetic and blood pressure medications," study author Dr. Nicole Isbel, of Princess Alexandra Hospital and University of Queensland in Australia, said in the news release.
Importantly, patients in the exercise group also showed improved heart function. People with chronic kidney disease have a high risk of premature death from heart disease, the study authors noted.
Erin Howden, also of Princess Alexandra Hospital and University of Queensland, stated that the "findings suggest that with the inclusion of structured exercise training and the right team support, improvements in fitness are achievable even in people with multiple health issues."
And Howden added in the news release: "Improvements in fitness translate not only to improved health outcomes, but result in gains that are transferable to tasks of everyday life."
However, before it can be determined that this type of program can help reduce kidney disease patients' risk of dying prematurely from heart disease, larger studies with longer follow-up are needed, Howden said.
About 60 million people worldwide have chronic kidney disease.
The National Kidney Foundation has more about chronic kidney disease.