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Experts say regular exercise can reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease. rbkomar/Getty Images
  • Researchers say that for people with obesity and other weight issues, moderate to vigorous exercise might help lower the risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
  • In their study, people who engaged in between 329 and 469 minutes of vigorous exercise per week were found to have a significantly lower risk of progressing to chronic kidney disease.
  • Experts say that it’s encouraging for people with kidney disease to have an inexpensive way to reduce or prevent the progression of their condition.

Moderate to vigorous physical activity is linked to a lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease in people with type 2 diabetes who also have obesity or other weight issues, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers performed a secondary analysis using data from the Look AHEAD trial, a multi-center, randomized controlled trial that compared cardiovascular outcomes of an intensive lifestyle intervention to standard diabetes support and education.

The scientists reviewed the records of 5,145 adults with diabetes who also had weight issues with an average follow-up period of 12 years. During the monitoring period, 567 participants, or about one in three, progressed to chronic kidney disease.

Eight out of 16 trial sites involving 1,746 participants used an activity tracker. These individuals had an average age of 58 and more than one-half were women.

The scientists noted that:

  • The average weekly total for moderate to vigorous physical activity was 329 minutes for people.
  • For those who had exercise amounts accumulated in periods of less than 10 minutes, the average weekly totals were 267 minutes.
  • There were 41 participants who accumulated activity in periods of more than 10 minutes.

Overall, a higher cumulative weekly average was associated with about an 8% lower risk for every 100 minutes of activity. This increased to 19% if their bouts of activity were at least 10 minutes at a time.

The researchers reported that those who improved their weekly tally by about one hour reduced their risk of developing chronic kidney disease by about 33%.

Participants engaging in between 329 and 469 minutes were significantly less likely to progress to chronic kidney disease than those completing vigorous activity for under 220 minutes.

The scientists did not determine cause and effect as this was an observational study only.

“This study is a secondary analysis of the Look AHEAD study, which was a high-quality, rigorously conducted clinical trial with an observational component that has led to numerous insights into how best to care for people with diabetes to prevent morbidity, disability, and mortality,” said Dr. Babak Orandi, an abdominal transplant surgeon, obesity medicine specialist, and director of NYU Langone Health’s PeriOperative Weight Evaluation and Reduction (POWER) clinic in New York. “This study found that even brief episodes — less than 10 minutes — of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity are associated with a decreased risk of chronic kidney disease.”

“It’s encouraging to have data to confirm what I had thought and hoped was true. Regarding physical activity to prevent serious diseases like chronic kidney disease, more is better than less, and some — even 10 minutes –is better than none,” Orandi, who was not involved in the study, told Medical News Today.

Chronic kidney disease is a condition that is caused by damage to the kidney that stops them from properly filtering the blood, causing excess fluid and waste to remain in the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The buildup of fluids can cause heart disease, stroke, or other serious medical issues, including:

About 15% of adults in the United States have chronic kidney disease.

Kidney disease usually progresses over time, although treatment can sometimes slow the progression.

“While there are a number of effective but expensive medications that can decrease progression of kidney disease, it is helpful to have data to confirm that a simple and free intervention that requires relatively little time can prevent kidney disease,” Orandi said.

“These findings will be motivating for many people who struggle to fit exercise into their day,” he added. “For many people, the idea of exercise conjures negative images of intimidating gym environments, pain, and discomfort. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can be achieved without gym memberships, trainers, classes, or specialized equipment, and can be done in the privacy of one’s own home, even in relatively small spaces.”

The National Kidney Foundation recommends treating and managing the underlying conditions that might have caused the kidney disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. For people with these risks it is essential to see a nephrologist on a regular basis.

It is also essential to manage complications, such as taking steps to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

There are several medications to slow the progression of the disease, including ACE Inhibitors, SGLT2 Inhibitors, and non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists (MRAs) such as Kerendia.

For people with chronic kidney disease who are over 50 and have a history of heart disease and diabetes, statins are also sometimes prescribed.