Exercising with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) or End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

Lauren Phillips, MS, RD, LDN
Renal Dietitian

With each new week, month, or year, many of us make resolutions to lose weight or increase physical activity. Making these resolutions a habit or knowing where to start can be difficult, especially when dealing with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) or End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) on Dialysis. The general recommendation is to get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.

Patient in Doctors office

Talk To Your Doctor

Before starting any new forms of physical activity, make sure to discuss your plans with your primary care physician and nephrologist. This way your team can better monitor and provide you with care. If you were previously inactive, make sure to start slow and make small goals. For example, it is much easier to maintain a goal of one to two 10-minute rounds of activity each day, than to start with saying you will exercise one hour every day.

Exercise Goals for CKD / ESRD Patients

An example of moderate physical activity would be a brisk paced walk. Meeting the goal of 2 hours and 30 minutes of activity each week can be hard. One way to help meet this goal is to do a minimum of 10 minutes of physical activity at a time, multiple times throughout the day.

Also, finding someone who is willing to work out with you helps make the time go by faster and feel more like play. Those who regularly exercise can look forward to having improved blood pressure control, better mental health, increased muscle strength, and improved laboratory outcomes.

Rethink Your Definition of Exercise

When thinking of exercise, visions of lifting weights at the gym or running for miles tend to come to mind. Exercise doesn’t have to be ‘hitting the gym’ or other cookie cutter types of activities. Anything from mowing the lawn with a push mower, to a fast paced walk around the mall, can help you meet your goals. Doing yoga is a great option for many. It is easily done at home, gentle on your joints, and you can find many yoga videos on YouTube.

Exercising With CKD

Other options are:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walking up and down the stairs at work during a break
  • Walking to the grocery store instead of driving (if your store is within walking distance)
  • Pacing around the living room while watching TV
  • Standing instead of sitting at work
  • Planting and maintaining a garden
  • Cleaning the house

Exercising With CKD bike

How Do I Exercise on the Days I’m on Dialysis?

For those with End Stage Renal Disease on Dialysis, finding the time to fit in exercise on treatment days can feel impossible. But, there are a variety of ways you can exercise while on treatment. An easy place to start is to use a squeeze ball or stress ball during treatment. Talk to your medical director or clinic manager about getting pedal bikes, like the one pictured above, for the clinic. These are great for use during treatment.

Exercising With CKD

Doing “chair yoga”, a blend of breathing and stretching exercises, can also be done during treatment. This is  a wonderful option for non-treatment days as well, or for those with chronic kidney disease, as well as those with arthritis. Chair yoga was developed by Lakshmi Voelker. You can visit her website for more information on how to perform chair yoga:

There are also many apps available for iPhone and Android that help show how to properly perform exercise moves if you aren’t feeling confident. Examples are: iMuscle 2, iYoga, or Fitbit Coach – to name a few.

Once you get started on your exercise journey, you’ll find you can fit in exercise anywhere and anytime in your day.


The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. KidneyChef urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. KidneyChef advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. KidneyChef does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. KidneyChef does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by KidneyChef is solely at your own risk.


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