Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A Dialysis Cardio Workout that Will Rebuild You Legs

By Derek Benoit, February 2nd, 2022

ALWAYS consult your physician, specialist, or appropriate exercise professional before beginning ANY exercise or treatment plan. This content is for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE MEDICAL ADVICE. By accessing this content, you agree to hold harmless the-outdoor-phoenix-community.com and Benoit Outdoor Media LLC for any injury, death, or damage to private property that results from performing any exercise, therapeutic exercise, or in receiving medical treatment.

A humble start. Photo by Derek Benoit

The next step, post indoor graduation. Photo by Derek Benoit

Why I Implemented this Dialysis Cardio Leg Workout

A dialysis cardio workout that will rebuild your legs can add much capability, energy, and quality back to your life. It goes without saying that much caution should go into the decision to try this. If you struggle, in any way, shape or form getting up and down stairs, this is NOT for you. Should this be the case, or balance be an issue for you, commit to physical therapy work to regain the physical foundation required before attempting this workout. NEVER RISK A FALL.

If you need to find a qualified physical therapist near you, try this PT locator at the American Physical Therapy Associations PT locator: https://aptaapps.apta.org/APTAPtDirectory/FindAPTDirectory.aspx

Also note that this workout is in addition to and not a substitute for the other walking or other physical activity I do. Consequently, it’s another tool I have in a tool box of activities I use to get more fit, control blood sugars, and build more physical ability into my life.

A Chemical Reason for Professional Consultation Prior to this Dialysis Cardio Workout

Also recognize the fact that if you’re a renal patient considering, or on dialysis, you’re not clearing potassium effectively from your body. That’s just a fact. With ANY exercise program, you MUST be in step with your doctors about control of potassium and other electrolytes. Why? You’ve already heard it from any number of medical professionals. It’s common knowledge in renal medicine land that potassium stimulates muscle activity. Your heart is arguably the most critical muscle in your body. Should your potassium levels be too high, overstimulation of the heart can occur causing cardiac arrest. You can literally drop dead, and no, you may not see or feel any symptoms before it happens.

IF you are physically capable, have well-controlled electrolytes, and get the green light from your doctor, physical therapist, and anyone else qualified to approve you to try this, then read on. I hope that this helps you as much as it’s helping me. I’m doing this right now, in addition to my mild treadmill sessions-easily replicated with a simple walk at a reasonably brisk pace.

The Dialysis Cardio Workout Warmup

A five minute walk, brisk enough to draw sweat, followed by a few sets of 10 bodyweight squats is sufficient for me to warm up my legs, quads, and even hamstrings. Don’t rush the warm up. Specifically, if your not feeling a bit of sweat and your lower body loosening up, do a couple of minutes more.

To be frank, if you feel any issue with balance, coordination, heavy breathing, or excessive burning in the legs, STOP. DO NOT progress to the actual “workout.” Immediately re consult your doctor, physical therapist, or exercise professional. Likely the answer will be a return to walking with a few separate brisk efforts worked in to build pace. Also, you’ll likely be prescribed more leg strength exercises. NEVER blow these off. Your medical professionals should ALWAYS be your guide here.

The Dialysis Cardio Workout Foundation

This is very, very simple and easy to start with. Three to five trips up and down the stairs at a typical walking pace. The set or two should be relatively easy. IF you’re comfortable, increase the pace slightly. Note that you’re not looking to challenge yourself uncomfortably here. A comfortable elevated amount of breathing is what you’re after. If you can’t talk, balk off the pace immediately. Moreover, do NOT turn this into a sprint session. Should you feel light headed, dizziness, ANYTHING like this, STOP. You MUST maintain balance and control at all times, both up and down. Again, NEVER RISK A FALL. NEVER risk any head or bodily injury.

The Dialysis Cardio Workout Progression


This is how I’m approaching this workout: 1-2x’s per week, depending on other treadmill, outside walking, or other physical activity. This leg work is a priority for me. I can mix up the other stuff and still count it towards my goals.

  • First week: 5 sets of 4 trips up and down
  • Second week: 6 sets of 4 trips up and down
  • Third week: 7 sets of 4 trips up and down
  • Fourth week: 5 sets, 5 trips
  • Fifth week: 6 sets, 5 trips
  • Sixth week: 7 sets, 5 trips

Depending on how week four goes, I may add one additional trip un and down per set, for a total of six. This is all based on how easily I handle the prior sessions. If I struggle after a few sets of 6 trips up and down, I will immediately drop the rest of the sets down to five trips up and down, and reassess for the next week.

What’s After this Dialysis Cardio Workout?

Here’s a picture of the next step: this hill is my next workout tool. Again, I’ll have to start with easy pace, and a lower number of reps, but I’ll build from there. It’s about baby steps, and not complicating ANY aspect of dialysis treatment or blood work management by overdoing things. Obviously, the number of reps will be slashed, and the pace will be slow to start. However, I will continue to build cardio capacity in the exact same way as I am with the relatively easy stair version.


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