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Bonding Dialysis with Exercise

By Sidney Marks

I started hemodialysis 16 months ago. My weight was 215 lbs., up from 160 lbs. 5 years earlier. I was dragging around, way out of shape, a middle-aged wreck. I decided that I had to get fit through exercise. However, I live in a small town. There is neither a dialysis center nor a well-equipped gym. Since it was going to be a 30-mile drive to dialysis, it made sense for me to go to a gym close to the center and regularly work out before my dialysis session.

I vowed that the workout would be as untouchable as the dialysis session. The two events would be treated as one. When I leave work for the gym, I say, "I'm going to dialysis." If there is an important meeting from 2:00 to 3:00 pm in the afternoon, I say, "I'm sorry, I need to be at dialysis by 3:00 pm." Actually, my dialysis treatment starts at 4:45 pm, but my workout starts at 3:00 pm, and I know how important exercise is to my ability to function.

It has been a wonderful success. I am now running 5 miles non-stop! I am strong and fit. The side effects of dialysis have essentially disappeared—no thirst, no cramps, no fatigue, no dizziness, no trouble sleeping—and I have better fluid control.

Endorphin stimulation is the great bonus of this program. Endorphins are hormones produced by the brain (not the kidney, thank goodness) as a response to vigorous exercise. They act as opiates, affecting the emotions in a positive way, and can help reduce pain. I'm probably high as a kite from endorphins when I come into the dialysis unit. I know that I'm always in a good mood and love to laugh and visit with the staff and the patients. Sometimes I need to be nudged towards my chair so as not to hold things up.

Here's my message to you: Dialysis is going to change your life, so take it as an opportunity to make a commitment to total body fitness. You can't miss dialysis, and if you schedule your workout just before dialysis, you won't miss exercise either.* This is a natural partnership that will make you feel much better. It worked for me!

*Editor's Note: Before starting an exercise program, check with your doctor for advice. To learn about specific exercises for people on dialysis, download a free copy of the Life Options booklet, Exercise: A Guide for People on Dialysis. You can download this bookelt here.

Permission received to post the following information:

Name: Sidney Marks
Address: Knox, IN
Cause of renal failure: Glomerulonephritis
Time on dialysis: 1 year
Treatments used: In-center hemodialysis, CAPD, transplant
Work/other activities: Retail management, Public Library Board of Trustees, Radio Station Board of Directors, Community Foundation Board of Directors
E-mail: sidandjoanmarks.knox@worldnet.att.net
Date: January 2000

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