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High intensity training advocated for kidney health

Kidney Health Week is a time to raise awareness for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), an irreversible condition that affects about 10 per cent of Australians, said researchers Dr Patrick Tucker and Dr Vincent Dalbo from Central Queensland University.

“The majority of CKD-related complications stem from damage associated with poor blood pressure regulation, excessive oxidative stress and inflammation, and reductions in genomic stability,” Tucker said of CKD, which is characterised by failing kidney functions and reduced life expectancy.

The most common cause of CKD is diabetes mellitus, with hypertension and glomerulonephritis – the inflammation of the kidneys – also leading triggers. Symptoms of CKD include increased blood pressure, sexual dysfunction and uremia.

The condition can be prevented by improving one's diet and exercising more. Tucker and Dalbo's research has led them to advocate for what they call High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, which involves short bursts of extreme cardiovascular exercise followed by a recovery period. An example of this is sprinting 600 metres one way followed by a gentle walk back to the starting point, then repeating this process several times.

“Our eight-week HIIT program provides evidence that this type of exercise regimen can help improve several of the most important clinical markers associated with CKD," Tucker said. “We also saw an encouraging, but non-significant, improvement in blood pressure.”

The main criticism of HIIT is that it is impractical for many at-risk individuals, who are largely unmotivated to put in such extreme bursts of activity. Another downside is that it requires a high baseline of fitness in order to be effective, one exercise scientist argued.

Regardless, Tucker and Dalbo are confident that HIIT is the preventative solution medical professionals should be recommending to at-risk patients.

“Simply put, HIIT beneficially influenced the expression of several important CKD-related genes. What’s more, many of the genes that were beneficially influenced are also implicated in other chronic diseases," Tucker said. “That is to say, we have evidence that HIIT may help reduce the damage caused by a wide range of chronic diseases, namely type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not just CKD.”

Kidney Health Week ended on Saturday, May 28. Here is an infographic provided by Tucker and Dalbo to illustrate the data around Chronic Kidney Disease:



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