By Alyssa Bialowas

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of exercise that has been found to improve health levels in people with metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and has recently been found to help those with kidney disease, too. Chronic kidney disease is characterised by failing kidney functions and reduced life expectancy. Complications arise from damage associated with blood pressure regulation, excessive oxidative stress and inflammation, and reductions in genomic stability, and symptoms include increased blood pressure, muscle wasting, sexual dysfunction and uremia.

Research out of Central Queensland University in Australia aimed to uncover whether HIIT is more beneficial than traditional moderate intensity exercise, and whether it can help people suffering from chronic kidney disease (Beetham, K. 2015). Beetham examined the effects of HIIT versus moderate-intensity continuous training on participants with stage 3 or 4 chronic kidney disease.

Related Article: How HIIT Changes Our Body

Here are 4 ways HIIT exercise helps those with chronic kidney disease. 

1. Improves Exercise Capacity 

HIIT improves energy and muscle strength and also allows you to recover more quickly after you exercise. Before the study was completed, one participant noted how she felt considerable improvement in her energy, fitness levels, strength and balance. She also noticed she was recovering a lot more quickly after exercise. Participants who reported high intensity interval training reported higher exercise capacity at 12 months than participants reporting moderate intensity exercise.

2. Increased Cardiorespiratory Fitness

The participants in the study who reported higher intensity training had significantly higher baseline cardiorespiratory fitness, exercise capacity and hemoglobin than those performing moderate intensity exercise. Those with chronic kidney disease often demonstrate reduced or impaired cardiorespiratory fitness, so HIIT seems to be a good option for those with chronic kidney disease to improve cardiovascular health.

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3. Normal Hemoglobin Levels

Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Significantly low hemoglobin levels are associated with fatigue and anemia, which people with chronic kidney disease often have. Individuals who performed higher intensity exercise were more likely to have normal hemoglobin levels at baseline than those who completed moderate training.

4. HIIT Helps Maintain Kidney Health

It is known that fitness benefits the health outcomes of those with kidney disease, so it’s essential to find the type of exercise that will reap the most benefit. In another study out of Queensland University done by Patrick Tucker (2016) in an animal model, he found that during an 8-week trial, HIIT helped maintain the health of the kidneys, versus low-intensity exercise and sedentary behavior.

He found improved Agt expression, which is a gene important in blood pressure regulation, as well as improved expression in genes that are important in reducing cellular and molecular damage. Further, he found improved LDL (the “bad” cholesterol”), triglycerides, total cholesterol, and albumin.

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Related Article: HIIT Is Beneficial For All Ages

Takeaway

High intensity interval training is a promising exercise system to enhance kidney health. It improves exercise capacity, muscle strength and respiratory fitness, normalizes hemoglobin levels and helps maintain kidney health overall.

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References

Tucker, Patrick. (2016). “Genomic Integrity Is Favourably Affected by High-Intensity Interval Training in an Animal Model of Early-Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.” Sports Medicine Open.

Beetham, K. (2015). Exercise Lifestyle Intervention and High Intensity Interval Training in Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (Doctoral Thesis). Retrieved from https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:369134.