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Kingston, Massachusetts, United States

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14, 2011

Given that today is Valentine’s Day, I find it only fitting to talk about the heart.  After all, both the kidneys and heart work very closely together in keeping us alive.
If there is one thing that I have heard from transplant patients that aids in the recovery process after the surgery, is preparing for the surgery with exercise.  And having the fortune of being a heart patient, as well as kidney patient (note the sarcasm), I can speak from relative experience.
One thing I learned while going through cardiac rehab, was that everyone – big, little, tall or small – benefits from exercise.  The optimum amount of aerobic exercise that most physicians want you to shoot for is 30 minutes, at least three times a week.  Some benefits of aerobic exercise include:

· Weight control
· It lowers your resting heart rate… reducing the work load of the heart
· It lowers you blood pressure... minimizing the risk of kidney failure
· Reduces cholesterol
· Improves immune system functioning
· Increases insulin sensitivity to help prevent type II diabetes, an underlying cause of kidney failure.
· It improves cardiovascular disease conditions

Most people think aerobic exercise means running or jogging.  A lot of people don’t like to run or jog, and therefore don’t exercise (or don’t do much).  In fact, you don’t have to run.  As long as you are getting your heart rate up to an appropriate level then you should be fine.  An appropriate level is something individual and should be discussed with your physician.

Well, what are you going to do, if you are not running?  Walk.  Some experts will argue that you get just as much benefit from walking as you do from running…some would even argue that walking is better because it does not have as great of an impact on your joints.  What else can you so…anything you find enjoyable that will get your heart rate into an appropriate range – cycling, rowing (you can use the machine at the gym), swimming, ice skating, cross country skiing, aerobics class.

But exercise isn’t just for your heart…It wasn’t until I started really looking at kidney disease, that I became aware that that there is a huge connection between kidney disease and exercise.  Comprehensive-kidneyfacts.com has a really simple and understandable analogy:

                        What is the connection between exercise and kidney disease? Just imagine for a moment a pound fill with water that remains stagnant for a long period of time. After a while the water becomes discolored, as moss and other pollutants accumulate in it. Contrast that with a fountain that is constantly spouting and moving the water around. It looks a lot cleaner, healthier, and alive. There is less build-up of moss and other pollutants.

This analogy gives a good idea of what happens in the body when we fail to exercise compared to when we exercise regularly. As the blood and other substances are stirred by exercise, toxins and other waste products are eliminated more efficiently and circulation and other metabolic functions improve. This allows oxygen and essential nutrients to be transported more efficiently around the body, resulting in better overall health.

I also incorporate some strength training into my workouts, as well.  If you have never done strength training, do so under the guidance of the trainer at the gym you belong to.  They can show you the proper techniques so that you reduce the risk of injury to yourself.  You don’t need to spend a lot of time with a trainer (unless you want to), one or two sessions should be fine to get you started.

Now, I don’t want to come across as someone who is in top physical condition because I exercise, because I’m not.  It’s a lot of work…I don’t necessarily like to do it every day, or every other day for that matter, but I force myself to do it because I know it is helping me.

Growing up I played soccer (known to many around the world as football).  I loved playing in the actual games, but I hated practice.  I forced myself (actually my coaches forced me) to go through the practices and the training sessions because it could help make me a better player in the end (although I was never very adept at dribbling, so I ended up playing the defensive positions most of the time – that’s ok, though, I had a blast back there).

I try to use the same mentality now.  The time I spend exercising today, and in the days leading up to the transplant, I see as my practice time.  Ultimately I feel (and many who have gone through this have said just as much) that it will benefit me in my recovery from the surgery, which I see as the game, and hopefully shorten my recovery period.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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