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Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) who lift weights during hemodialysis experience improvements in muscle mass, strength, quality of life, and other health indicators, researchers report. Muscle wasting, which is common among patients with ESRD, is a strong risk factor for premature death.

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Researchers studied the effects of progressive resistance training in 49 people with ESRD. About half were randomly selected to receive usual care; the other half performed rigorous exercises three times a week during their dialysis sessions. While seated in dialysis chairs, they used dumbbells, ankle weights, and other equipment to exercise all major muscle groups.


After 12 weeks, patients who lifted weights had greater muscle mass, as measured by computed tomography, compared with patients in the control group. Other benefits of strength training included improved perceptions of physical function and vitality, and reduced inflammatory markers. The exercise sessions didn't require any changes in dialysis procedures or routine care.


Patients benefited without making any changes in diet or lifestyle activities. Pointing out that most patients watch television or sleep during dialysis, lead researcher Bobby Cheema, PhD, notes that "this excessive inactivity can accelerate their physical and psychological deterioration."


Source: Cheema B, et al., Progressive exercise for anabolism in kidney disease (PEAK): A randomized, controlled trial of resistance training during hemodialysis, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, published online ahead of print April 4, 2007.