Research has shown that regular exercise can be helpful in managing chronic kidney disease (CKD), and can limit its harmful effects on the body. During National Kidney Month this March, Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA), the nation's leading network of dialysis facilities, is urging the growing population of people on dialysis to exercise frequently, which can improve their day-to-day energy and quality of life.

CKD is a progressive, usually permanent loss of kidney function. When CKD leads to kidney failure, or end stage renal disease (ESRD), the only treatments are a kidney transplant or dialysis.

Exercise can benefit people with CKD and ESRD by: keeping their heart and other muscles strong; increasing flexibility in joints; improving circulation, digestion, and sleep; and controlling blood pressure and body weight.

You don't have to run a marathon to get fit. Fitness can start with simple changes in your daily routine.

5 Tips for Staying Fit:

- Make it Fun: Choose an activity that you enjoy doing, such as walking, biking, swimming, and you are more likely to stick with it.

- Start Slow: Take a 15 minute walk each day, and gradually work up to longer walks.

- Take the Stairs: Take the stairs instead of the elevator, and find opportunities in your daily routine to walk instead of drive.

- Stay Loose: Try yoga or other stretching/flexibility exercises, which help improve joint movement and reduce muscle stiffness.

- Sleep and Restore: An important part of an exercise routine is getting enough rest to recharge your body. Shoot for at least 8 hours every night.

FMCNA offers a series of "Simply Fit" demonstration videos that provide suggestions on how to work simple exercises into a daily routine.

"For people with kidney disease, exercise should be part of their daily life, especially because it can give them more energy and a greater sense of control over their lives," said Carolyn Latham, VP Clinical Quality and UltraCare at FMCNA. "Exercise benefits patients, but can also become an activity they share with their loved ones and family."

One dialysis patient who understands the power that exercise has on maintaining good health is Shad Ireland. A spokesperson for FMCNA, Ireland is a 38-year-old patient advocate whose condition has never stopped him from pursuing demanding athletic feats. Ireland has been on dialysis for the majority of his life, but in 2004 he became the first dialysis patient to complete an Ironman triathlon - after running, swimming and biking for more than 16 hours - and he has completed many more triathlons since. Ireland is passionate about promoting CKD education and awareness, and regularly visits patients and staff at FMCNA facilities across the U.S. He aims to inspire and empower people to exercise for more energy and to feel better while on dialysis.

"Many fellow dialysis patients who I meet aren't motivated to exercise, or don't realize how much it can improve their overall health and the way they feel every day," said Ireland. "I am working with Fresenius Medical Care to encourage patients to get moving - whether it's walking down the street, getting active with their grandchildren, or even becoming a professional athlete - and to help them realize that anything is possible."

Before starting an exercise program, patients need to check with their doctors to make sure it's safe and appropriate for their condition.

Dialysis is a life-sustaining process that cleans waste products from the blood, removes extra fluids and controls the body's chemistry when a person's kidneys fail. Dialysis patients typically require treatment on an ongoing basis unless they receive a kidney transplant.

Fresenius Medical Care

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