January 23, 2017

How Regular Exercise Can Prevent Kidney Disease

Have you ever started vacuuming the carpet only to realize that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t picking up anything? Then you noticed that the motor is laboring more intensely than usual. Chances are the filter was clogged and the bag or reservoir was full.

Your kidneys perform a similar, but infinitely more complex and important job in your body. Each kidney contains about a million filtering components called nephrons. By means of the nephrons, your kidneys filter the waste materials out of your blood eliminating them from the body. Your kidneys help keep the electrolytes stable, and produce important hormones that regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep your bones strong.[1]

regular exercise prevents kidney diseaseSigns and Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Now, imagine what happens if your kidneys are no longer functioning properly. Waste materials continue to circulate in the bloodstream causing other health problems throughout the body. Your electrolytes get off kilter, your blood pressure rises, and your hormones are out of balance. Like that clogged vacuum cleaner, your heart is working harder, but accomplishing less. In short, your body ceases to work properly. This situation describes Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).[2]

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 10% of adults in the US may have CKD.[3] Some of the signs and symptoms of CKD include:[4]

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep issues
  • Changes in urine output
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Hiccups
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Persistent itching
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure

Clearly, those symptoms represent a lifestyle far removed from good health!

Improve Your Kidneys with Exercise

But here’s the great news! Regular exercise can help prevent CKD and improve CKD if you already have it, even if it has progressed to the point that you’re on dialysis.[5] Logically this makes sense since exercise is the enemy of all the risk factors for CKD. But let’s take a closer look at how regular exercise benefits your kidneys:[6], [7]

  • Lowers blood sugar, retarding or preventing neuropathy and kidney failure
  • Improves blood circulation and gets things moving through your kidneys
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps you lose weight if overweight
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Strengthens the heart and other muscles
  • Assists in sleeping better
  • Provides more energy to perform normal, everyday functions
  • Sharpens your memory
  • Reduces depression and anxiety
  • Improves quality of life

In one way or another, each of those benefits translates to healthier kidneys and a healthier you.

I’m too tired to get up, how can I exercise?

It’s true, CKD does sap you of energy, so how can you muster the vim and vigor needed to exercise? Clearly, CKD impacts your life in many significant ways, and it used to be that patients with CKD were prescribed bedrest.

However, numerous recent studies have demonstrated the powerful impact that regular exercise can have on the kidneys. These human studies have included healthy individuals, those with CKD but are not yet on dialysis, and those who are already on dialysis.[8], [9], [10], [11]

Depending on your current physical condition and the recommendation of your doctor, starting out slowly and building up with aerobic exercise should increase your energy and stamina. Getting started is that catch-22, because you may not feel like you can. For many this may be an issue of mind over matter.

6 Tips for Getting Started on an Exercise Program

Before you begin, talk to your doctor. Your doctor knows your specific situation and can recommend a course of action for implementing an exercise plan that’s right for you. However, below are some general tips for establishing an exercise routine.

1. Choose an aerobic exercise that you can enjoy and participate in regularly.

Aerobic exercises include: walking, biking, running, hiking, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, swimming, rowing or using equipment that simulates these activities. For many with CKD, walking can be an ideal aerobic exercise, because it’s low impact, you can do it indoors or outside, participate with others, and go at your own pace.[12]

2. Begin with a goal of 30 minutes, 3 times per week.

Many people think that housework or getting up off the coach to go to the refrigerator constitutes a workout! Not so! An exercise becomes aerobic when your heartrate is elevated over an extended period of time (e.g., 30 minutes). This elevated heartrate and oxygen intake is necessary to achieve the desired benefits.

Also, once or twice a week won’t achieve the results you’re looking for. That’s why experts recommend a minimum of 3 times per week, skipping a day or two between workouts.[13] Once your exercise routine is regular, you will probably look forward to your workouts and have more energy to keep them a regular part of your life. It’s not necessary to limit yourself to 30 minutes and 3 times a week, if you wish to exercise longer and more frequently.

3. Exercise with the right equipment.

Invest in a good pair of walking shoes or other clothing to make your activity enjoyable and safe. Before you go out and purchase an expensive piece of exercise equipment, make sure you’ll actually use it and that it works properly.

4. Perform a warm-up before and a cool-down after you exercise.

Gentle stretching before and after exercising is a vital part of a good exercise routine and can prevent cramps or straining a muscle. Stretch the primary muscles you use during that exercise. Never bounce a stretch or force it to the point of pain.

Here are some suggestions for warm-up:

  1. Arms: Stand as straight as possible and reach both hands as high as you can. Stretch them even higher and wiggle all ten fingers as you continue to reach and stretch. Now bring your left hand over onto your right shoulder and cup your left elbow with your right hand. Apply gentle, even pressure to stretch those muscles. Then repeat the same thing with your other arm. Finally, lift your hands over your head and place them crossed with your palms against your back shoulder blades. In that position, stretch your elbows back.
  2. Calves, hamstrings and back: Stand an arm’s length from a solid wall and lean against the wall with your arms. Continue leaning against the wall and take one stride back with both feet and feel your calf and hamstring muscles stretch. Now, still in this position, slowly go up on your toes with each foot, one at a time and repeat a couple times. Finally, step away from the wall, stand up as straight as you can and slowly run your hands down your legs and touch your toes. Hold that position for several seconds and then slowly stand back up.
  3. Thighs: Stand straight and place your left hand on a countertop or wall to help you balance. Now bend your right leg and bring your right foot up behind you until you can grab that ankle with your right hand. Slowly stretch that leg as far as you can by pulling up. Hold that pose for a few seconds and then repeat with your left leg and hand.

5. Stay hydrated while you exercise.

Exercise often prompts us to take in the water we should be drinking and this too helps our kidneys. However, if you are on dialysis, speak with your doctor and stay within the prescribed limits of fluid intake.[14] Those suffering with CKD need to limit their intake of potassium and phosphorus, so be sure to check labels on bottled water or sports drinks to see whether they’ve added these minerals.

6. Use a smart-phone app or activity tracking device.

Many people find these nifty little devices and applications extremely helpful and motivating.

  • Endomondo is a free phone app that utilizes GPS technology to track your mileage, speed, incline and other interesting data.
  • The Fitbit is a very small electronic device that tracks similar information.
  • There are other products and apps on the market as well that help regulate your exercise and energy.

Just like that clogged vacuum that no longer works properly, we need to clean the filter to get it functioning properly again. That’s what physical exercise does for your kidneys. In fact, physical exercise is beneficial to overall health and wellbeing. If you’re not already in a regular exercise program, what’s holding you back? Don’t put it off any longer! Exercise for good health!

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Rob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.


[1] National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, “The Kidneys and How They Work,” May 21, 2014, http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/yourkidneys/.
[2] CDC, “Protect Your Kidneys,” nd, http://www.cdc.gov/Features/WorldKidneyDay/.
[3] CDC, “National Chronic Kidney Disease Fact Sheet, 2014,” http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/kidney_factsheet.pdf.
[4] Mayo Clinic, “Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms,” January 30, 2015, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-disease/basics/symptoms/con-20026778.
[5] Medical News Today, “Health of Chronic Kidney Disease Patients Improved by Regular Physical Activity,” October 6, 2011, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/235597.php.
[6] DaVita, “Exercise for People with Chronic Kidney Disease,” nd, http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/living-with-ckd/exercise-for-people-with-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4931.
[7] Medical News Today.
[8] Science Daily.
[9] K.L. Johansen, “Exercise and Chronic Kidney Disease: Current Recommendations,” PubMed, 2005, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15974634.
[10] Kirsten L. Johansen, MD, Patricia Painter, PhD, “Exercise in Individuals with CKD,” Medscape, 2012, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/756303_2.
[11] Nephrology News, “Physical Fitness Level Affects Kidney Function in Type 2 Diabetes Patients,” June 25, 2014, http://www.nephrologynews.com/articles/110295-physical-fitness-level-affects-kidney-function-in-type-2-diabetes-patients.
[12] DaVita, “Walking: An Ideal Exercise for People with Kidney Disease,” nd, http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/living-with-ckd/walking:-an-ideal-exercise-for-people-with-kidney-disease/e/7573.
[13] DaVita, “Walking: An Ideal Exercise for People with Kidney Disease.”
[14] DaVita, “Walking: An Ideal Exercise for People with Kidney Disease.”

How to Add Essential Oils to Your Workout

When it comes to exercise, there’s a lot more at play than simply lacing up our running shoes and going out for a jog.  There are a number of factors we need to consider to ensure that we actually follow through with our exercise plan and that our experience is positive.

We may not always consciously think about these factors, but often have them pre-built into our routines. Regardless of the particular form of exercise that we choose, we are probably concerned about:

  • how to add essential oils to your workoutDeveloping healthy routines
  • Making our workout as pleasant as possible
  • Improving stamina
  • Staying hydrated
  • Preventing strains and sprains
  • Maintaining energy and endurance
  • Preventing/minimizing muscle fatigue
  • Overcoming post-workout soreness
  • Avoiding risk of injury

What we may not have considered before now is that aromatherapy can help address any and all of the above challenges. Because many oils have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties they are a great addition to your exercise routine and help you stay in great form. For instance, merely introducing a pleasant-smelling essential oil into your workout routine can evoke a desire to engage in that routine more consistently. Let’s consider some other ways that aromatherapy can complement your of plan and become a part of preventative medicine for any sport enthusiast young or old, blue ribbon winner or beginner.

How does Aromatherapy Play into Fitness?

Aromatherapy, as a complementary alternative medicine, neither takes the place of exercise itself nor serves as a substitute for heeding other important factors associated with exercise like eating right, getting plenty of sleep, and not overdoing it when we exercise. Any one of those factors can significantly impact how we feel during and after a workout. Aromatherapy won’t replace any of these essentials, but it can augment them beautifully.

Consider the following applications:

Peppermint oil

In 2013, a small study was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Twelve healthy male students drank one 500 ml bottle of mineral water mixed with 0.05 ml peppermint essential oil for ten days. Various readings were taken before and after the 10-day period.

Researchers found that peppermint oil proved effective on exercise performance, gas analysis, spirometry parameters, blood pressure, and respiratory rate of all twelve students.[1] In other studies, peppermint essential oil used as aromatherapy has been shown to raise the pain threshold, lower perceived physical workload, effort and anxiety.

Eucalyptus, wintergreen and cypress oils

Following a hard workout, mix these essential oils with a neutral carrier oil like coconut or grape seed oil and work the mixture into your sore muscles for relief.[2]

frankincense and ginger essential oils reduce inflammationFrankincense and ginger oils

Together, these two essential oils help reduce inflammation and support joints. Mix with a carrier oil and rub onto sore joints or to knead out the inflammation from a cramp.[3]

Lavender oil

After a hard workout, you want to allow your body the rest and relaxation it needs to recover and replenish itself. Lavender oil applied aromatically, in bathwater, or topically as a lotion can help you achieve the relaxation you need.[4]

Oregano or melaleuca oil

A downside of working out in a public gym is the likelihood of picking up a fungus in the locker room like athlete’s foot. Oregano or melaleuca oil with their powerful antifungal properties can help prevent and remedy such an outbreak.[5]

Eucalyptus oil

In preparation for a workout, mix eucalyptus oil with a carrier oil and apply it to your neck, throat and temples. This will improve circulation and help open up your airways.[6] If you suffer from asthma or allergies, eucalyptus oil can provide relief following a workout as well.

Lemon oil

This essential oil may be the most powerful anti-microbial oil of them all. This oil assists in the breakdown of fat, stimulates lymph drainage, quenches the thirst, and protects the immune system.[7]

How to Add Essential Oils to Your Workout

Typically, essential oils are inhaled, applied topically to the skin, or ingested, although this is not as common in the US and should only be done under the supervision of a professional.

Inhale essential oils using a diffuser, by placing oil directly on a cotton ball or tissue, via steam, or through a mist sprayed into the air.[8]

When applying essential oils topically, most oils must be diluted with a carrier oil or water, usually at a concentration ratio of no more than 3-5%. And for a whole body application (bath or massage), dilute the oil to a 1% solution.[9]

Can you exercise without essential oils? Certainly! But I’ve given you seven good reasons to complement your exercise routine with essential oils. These oils can provide relief from debilitating pain, boost your performance, increase circulation, and can make your workout more pleasurable.

Most of us wouldn’t go out for a run without the proper equipment. Perhaps the essential oils hold a place in the category of “proper equipment!” Why not test them out and see for yourself.

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Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.


[1] Abbas Meamarbashi and Ali Rajabi, “The Effects of Peppermint on Exercise Performance,” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 21 March 2013, http://www.jissn.com/content/10/1/15.
[2] Dr. Axe, “101 Essential Oil Uses and Benefits,” nd, http://draxe.com/essential-oil-uses-benefits/.
[3] Dr. Axe, “Dr. Axe’s Essential Oils Guide,” nd, http://draxe.com/essential-oils-guide/.
[4] Dr. Axe, “Dr. Axe’s Essential Oils Guide.”
[5] Dr. Axe, “Dr. Axe’s Essential Oils Guide.”
[6] WikiHow, “How to Use Aromatherapy During a Workout,” nd, http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Aromatherapy-During-a-Workout.
[7] Dr. Axe, “Top 10 Lemon Essential Oil Uses and Benefits,” nd, http://draxe.com/lemon-essential-oil-uses-benefits/.
[8] University of Minnesota, “How Do I Choose and Use Essential Oils?” nd, http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/aromatherapy/how-do-i-choose-and-use-essential-oils.
[9] University of Minnesota.

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