Exercise and chronic kidney disease: potential mechanisms underlying the physiological benefits

Nicolette C. Bishop*, James O. Burton, Matthew P.M. Graham-Brown, David J. Stensel, João L. Viana, Emma L. Watson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing evidence indicates that exercise has beneficial effects on chronic inflammation, cardiorespiratory function, muscle and bone strength and metabolic markers in adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD), kidney failure or kidney transplants. However, the mechanisms that underlie these benefits have received little attention, and the available clinical evidence is mainly from small, short-duration (<12 weeks) exercise intervention studies. The available data, mainly from patients with CKD or on dialysis, suggest that exercise-mediated shifts towards a less inflammatory immune cell profile, enhanced activity of the NRF2 pathway and reduced monocyte infiltration into adipose tissue may underlie improvements in inflammatory biomarkers. Exercise-mediated increases in nitric oxide release and bioavailability, reduced angiotensin II accumulation in the heart, left ventricular remodelling and reductions in myocardial fibrosis may contribute to improvements in left ventricular hypertrophy. Exercise stimulates an anabolic response in skeletal muscle in CKD, but increases in mitochondrial mass and satellite cell activation seem to be impaired in this population. Exercise-mediated activation of the canonical wnt pathway may lead to bone formation and improvements in the levels of the bone-derived hormones klotho and fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23). Longer duration studies with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm these mechanisms in CKD, kidney failure and kidney transplant populations and provide evidence for targeted exercise interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-256
Number of pages13
JournalNature Reviews Nephrology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Apr

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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