Exercising in the privacy and safety of our own front room became the new normal for many of us during the months of lockdown earlier this year. However, whilst we know that increasing our fitness level will improve our mental and physical health, we do also know that making the transition from ‘couch potato’ to Joe Wicks is not an easy ask.
So, what is going to motivate us to get moving and what does ‘increasing our fitness level’ actually mean?
Our body was designed to move and the more it is able to move, the better it will perform to support us.We also know the science: increased physical activity helps our mental health as well as our physical health.
With a healthier, fitter body and mind comes a host of other benefits, including better management of stress and improved quality of sleep, which in turn help support every aspect of our lives – including the management of our personal relationships.
We’ve been through a frightening time this year, with all of us who have chronic kidney disease (CKD) having to adopt a new way of living to protect ourselves from infection. So, whilst improving physical fitness can mean anything from stretching exercises whilst sitting in a chair to long-distance running, over this past six months whatever exercise we do has had to take place in our homes.
Recognising that kidney patients will want to know what exercises are safe and can be done at home, specialists at Bangor University have developed an exercise programme called MOVE. The MOVE programme is specifically designed to help kidney patients improve their physical health and includes literature, posters and a series of short video clips showing some of the exercises you might like to try. Find out more at the MOVE website.
We wanted to know what you’ve been doing at home to keep yourself fit. We asked five kidney patients, all of different ages and at different stages of CKD to demonstrate their own personal fitness routines in a short video, and explain what impact exercise has had on their life.
What links them altogether is their commitment to participate in some form of regular, structured physical activity, albeit some more vigorously than others! But, as a consequence all have achieved a marked improvement in their overall state of physical and emotional health.
We are very grateful to Maddy, Ciara, Molly, Dee and Nick. Thanks also to three great professional instructors who also contributed their time and expertise to these short videos:
- Ciara Roberts, a professional yoga teacher and nutritionist, who is also a kidney transplant recipient
- Heather Claridge, a professional Pilates instructor with experience in working with kidney patients
- Mikey Spice, a motivational personal trainer who specialises in weight management
Each video may be viewed below. Whatever one you decide to watch, we hope the videos demonstrate that exercise is fun and is well within the reach of us all.
Dr Sharlene Greenwood
Dr Sharlene Greenwood is a Consultant Physiotherapist at King’s College Hospital, an Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at King’s College London, and a NIHR post-doctoral research fellow. She co-chairs the UK Kidney Research Consortium Exercise and Lifestyle Clinical Study Group, co-chairs the Kidney Quality Improvement Partnership (KQuIP), and is the President for the British Renal Society. Sharlene is an advanced clinical practitioner with 15 years of experience as a specialist renal physiotherapist. She leads a clinical research team of 15 therapists and leads on various research and clinical innovation projects in renal, cardiac and physical activity. She leads one of the only commissioned renal exercise services in the country, which includes renal rehabilitation, weight management, and specialist kidney transplant exercise clinics.
Go mad with Maddy
Maddy Warren is 36 years old and has been on home dialysis for 21 years: five years on peritoneal dialysis (PD) and the rest doing nocturnal haemodialysis (HD).
“I dialyse 6-7 hours, five nights a week. I run my own consultancy business and in ‘normal’ life have a very busy schedule working long hours with a lot of travel. I’m also a competition level formation skydiver, so being at peak fitness is critical for me to maintain my lifestyle. Two years ago I ran the London Marathon and started working intensively with my lovely Personal Trainer, Jamie. Since then I have been training in the gym three times a week, plus weekly Pilates and Zumba classes. Pushing my fitness hard means I feel the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been despite so many years dialysing, I consider exercise in whatever form to be a critical part of physically and mentally managing your kidney disease, whether you’re just getting started or are already used to exercising regularly. I’ve rebuilt my fitness from scratch multiple times after major surgeries, health crises and a disastrous failed transplant attempt - there have been times I could barely walk up a flight of stairs so I know it is absolutely possible to come back from rock bottom with a positive mindset and setting small achievable daily/weekly goals. Adapting exercise to suit your own circumstances and being kind to yourself is critical, doing anything is better than doing nothing.
During lockdown I’ve decided to push myself harder so I’m training seven days a week at home, mixing up strength and conditioning, HIIT circuits, yoga, Pilates, ballet barre (following ballerinas streaming free classes on Instagram live) and a weekly virtual ‘rave’ with 100s of people dancing over Zoom which puts a huge smile on my face. I’m also following an online 30 day Ab Challenge and walking in the countryside around me once a day as fortunately I live in a very rural area.”
Exercise: Keep it calm with Ciara
Ciara Roberts is an author, a yoga teacher and naturopathic nutritional therapist, with a passion for helping others help themselves. Very much influenced by the power of lived experience with her own kidneys, from kidney failure at age 14, to relying then on in unit haemodialysis, through to her first cadaveric transplant at 21 lasting nearly 20 years, a period of time on home peritoneal dialysis and much more recently, her second kidney transplant in October 2019. She understands the kidney journey, whilst also recognising that your journey is unique to you.
Weaving in her expertise in yoga, she’d love to help you do the same. Simple tools such as breath and movement infused with postural awareness, can have a profound effect on your overall inner state, your psychological realm, and in turn, your overall health. With small, gentle steps, we still climb our mountain, to realise then how strong we really are.
Move it with Molly
Molly, at 85 has been retired for just seven years from her role as personal assistant to a local solicitor, a job she enjoyed for over 40 years. She and her husband, John are kept very busy with their family – two daughters and two granddaughters – and a very hectic social life. Two years ago, Molly went to see her GP because she was feeling unusually lack-lustre and off her food.
The GP took some blood tests and these revealed that her kidney function (eGFR) had reduced by half in the course of two months. She was advised to increase her water intake, cut back on high protein and processed foods and to engage in regular exercise. She followed his advice on diet and started to take a regular Pilates class. She also started to take regular walks around her local area. At her second appointment with the GP two months later, her kidney function had improved. Exercise and sensible eating is now an integral part of Molly’s life and she’s feeling great!
Don’t stop, with Dee
My name is Dee Moore and in August 2018, my life as I knew it, changed when I was taken ill and I spent just over two months in the hospital. During this time my kidneys began to fail and now I have a diagnosis of stage 4 kidney disease.
Prior to becoming a Kidney Warrior, I was on my weight loss journey and been training regularly, however, the steroid treatment that I placed on for my kidneys triggered a considerable weight gain.
My turning point came when my Renal Consultant told me that he thought that I was six months away from dialysis and that my body mass index (BMI) was too high to be placed on the transplant waiting list. I was determined to do everything I could to avoid going onto dialysis so I began cardio, strength and resistance training and changed my diet.
I have successfully lost the steroid induced weight gain and I continue fighting for my health and continue on my weight loss journey.
Hi, Mikey Spice here! I am a professional personal trainer and gym owner, based in Birmingham. My history in the fitness business stems from a career as a basketball player at National League level, back in the 90’s. Training with the basketball team I was intrigued to see how, with regular targeted exercise, my body changed and it made me determined to take that experience and share it with people who were not necessarily into sport, to help them get themselves in shape. Before long I took over coaching Basketball in the Community.
I then followed on to study and got my fitness training qualifications, where my first employment started with Birmingham City council. My work was soon recognised by an independent gym and I was approached by them to run one of their gyms as director. Within a while business picked up and people were joining in my evening classes where we were all working together to get body-fit – or ‘Body Sharp’. It wasn’t just the people who already had a good level of fitness that came to my classes, the classes were drawing people with really low levels of fitness and many with chronic illness, mental health or serious weight issues. My classes captured the right mood and it got people motivated to get moving. Many also achieved their personal goals – they just needed that boost of support.
I am also a qualified boxing instructor and like to bring moves from boxing into my work-outs. I understand a lot of what is involved in chronic illness and how this affects a person’s ability to get fit. I have suffered serious injuries in my time which affected not just my fitness levels, but my confidence too.
So I bring this experience into the classes I now run my own gym – Body Sharp.
Check me out at
Nice work-out with Nick
Nick is Head of Patient Support & Advocacy at Kidney Care UK and has led the National Advocacy Service since 2010. Diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome caused by FSGS in 1996 he went onto dialysis in 2000 followed by a deceased donor transplant in 2006 and a living kidney donor transplant (LKDT) in 2010. Now on nocturnal home haemodialysis Nick uses his valuable patient experience as young adult to help guide others on their ‘journey’. He is particularly interested in home dialysis, LKDT, mental health, nutrition and exercise. Being an avid foodie and home cook eating well for Nick is really important and compliments his passion for exercise. As a teenager Nick played hockey for the North West and Cheshire; he rediscovered his running ability whilst on dialysis completing 10k events and the and the occasional Half Marathon. Today, between work and looking after a small family Nick is content with regular 5k runs, bike rides and trips to the gym knowing that exercise is an essential tool to keep his mind and body in good shape.
Do that stretch with Deborah
Deborah is Managing Editor (editing ‘Kidney Matters’) and Lead in the Kidney Kitchen, at Kidney Care UK. She has been a kidney patient for over 35 years and was first diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in her 20’s as a consequence of brittle type 1 diabetes. Deborah commenced peritoneal dialysis (PD) and was listed for a kidney transplant. But on hearing that simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplants were being trialed in the UK, asked to be considered for this surgery instead. In October 1994 Deborah received a SPK transplant in the Royal Liverpool Hospital, an operation that halted her various forms of diabetes-related nerve damage (diabetic autonomic neuropathies) and saw her free from the need to inject insulin for the first time in over 30 years. Her transplanted kidney lasted only three years before she was back on dialysis, this time opting for unit-based haemodialysis. In May 1999 she received her second kidney transplant (also from a cadaver donor). In early 2003 her transplanted pancreas failed and she returned to controlling her diabetes with diet and insulin injections (5 injections per day). After a further five years on the transplant waiting list, a second pancreas (alone) match was identified and in May 1999 she was successfully transplanted, this time in Oxford. Her second kidney and second pancreas are still going strong. Exercise has always played a very important part in Deborah’s busy life. She attends regular Pilates classes and takes long walks with her dog, every day. She puts her current good health down to adherence to her four ‘golden rules’, which are to always -
- eat the best, healthiest food you can afford
- take regular, daily exercise – for her, it’s long dog walks across her local beach
- understand what medication you are taking and why….and to commit to take that medication at regular times every day
- manage stress levels - be happy!!
Heather Claridge – Pilates instructor
I trained as a PE teacher in the 70's and taught in a comprehensive for 5 years before having a family. I started doing some supply work in different schools and found myself teaching in a Special School, which I totally loved, especially working alongside the therapists, understanding all about the importance of alignment for particular children and their physio’ sessions. So when I read an article 22 years ago, about Pilates and working in correct alignment, posture whilst exercising I knew I had to find out more. So I started going to London at weekends to learn more. It was inspiring.
At the same time as Deputy Head I was lecturing part time in Special Needs at Northampton College (now University). In 1999 I trained with Body Control Pilates, whilst still lecturing. I loved the training and once qualified found the teaching so rewarding and decided this was my new future.
I feel so lucky to be where I am now, teaching something I'm so passionate about with eight other great teachers in my own studio in Olney, Buckinghamshire.