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Lifestyle

The Hazy — but not Lazy — Days of Summer

Summer is here, and for many of us, that means friend and family get-togethers, grilling and picnics, and spending time outdoors in the sun. Summer is also a great time to take advantage of the warm weather to fit in some outdoor activity. If you have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), participating in summer activities will not only help you physically, but also emotionally, enhancing your general well-being while on dialysis.1 But remember, you should always check with your physician before beginning any type of physical activity.

By getting outside and performing regular activities, people with CKD find that not only are they stronger and have more energy, they also have an improved mood and a more positive outlook on life.  Other great benefits to being active in the summer include helping with2:

  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Controlling blood sugar
  • Reducing cholesterol
  • Strengthening muscles, bones3 and heart
  • Improving sleep1
  • Controlling body weight
  • Being more agile and mobile

Below are a few easy ways to get moving out in the fresh summer air. First and foremost, check with your physician before beginning any type of physical activity.:

Walking

Walking is one of the easiest ways to fit activity into your summer schedule. Grab a friend you haven't seen in a while to catch up while walking around your neighborhood. Drive to a nearby lake and hike along a trail while enjoying nature. Or, if the weather isn't cooperating, hit up the local mall to fit in a bit of walking and some window shopping. No matter what the weather, walking is a great activity that can ease you into a higher level of health. It's safe, simple and doesn't require any special gear.

Biking

Biking is a great family activity that can improve heart function and strength. Most cities offer extensive bike paths, so take advantage of bike lanes, bike routes and multi-use paths. Since biking is a form of transport, try biking to work if it's close enough, or pick a destination to bike to instead of driving. You'll save gas and money, and you'll probably notice more things along the way than you would if you were in a car. Trading your car for a bike is an easy way to fit fitness into your daily life. Remember, if you're just starting out, be sure you start with shorter rides and gradually build up to longer distances.

Gardening

Gardening can be a rewarding activity, not only for the flowers and vegetables it produces. Surprisingly enough, gardening works all the major muscle groups and can improve your endurance, strength and flexibility. If you're starting a garden for the first time, start with a small bed, such as a 4-foot by 6-foot area, and add more area to it each season. Or if you don't have a yard, try container gardening in a sunroom or a porch. Besides the added benefits of the exercise, remember to enjoy the "fruits" of your labor – you've earned it!

Swimming

Swimming can be a wonderful break from the heat of summer. Easy on your joints and bones, swimming is a relaxing activity that's a perfect way to cool off on a hot day. If you're on dialysis and would like to swim, be sure to first check with your doctor if swimming is appropriate for you. It's commonly thought that you're not allowed to swim if you're on peritoneal dialysis (PD), but if your catheter exit site is completely healed you may be able to swim, with your doctor’s permission, using a covering like a colostomy bag to cover your exit site. Be sure to swim only in private, chlorinated pools, avoiding other bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes or hot tubs — they may harbor bacteria that could cause an infection. Before you take a dip, check with your dialysis center for exit site and catheter care before and after swimming. Patients should follow the protocol provided by their healthcare professional.

Golfing

Golfing offers a great chance to socialize with others, fit in a bit of activity, and enjoy nature all at one time. To ease into it, visit a driving range to hit a few balls and putt on a practice green, or sign up for a few lessons to learn new techniques. Once you're ready to hit the course, round up a group of friends or family and head out for some friendly competition. Known as a leisurely sport, golfing improves strength, balance, cardio and coordination. A golf swing involves your entire body, and offers a great way to stretch and tone your muscles. For added benefits from your time on the course, forgo the golf cart and choose to walk instead.

Don't forget your hat!

With the summer comes the sun and heat, and it's important that you take the proper precautions before beginning any activity outdoors. Follow these tips so the summer sun doesn't get the best of you:

  • Block harmful UV rays by using sunscreen and wearing a lightweight hat.
  • Avoid the worst of summer's heat by avoiding the hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. which is when the sun is most intense and hot.
  • Cover your PD access or catheter exit site. Being outside in the summer may cause you to sweat or get dirty, so you might need to perform exit site care and apply a new dressing after you go inside.
  • Monitor your fluid intake. As a person living with kidney disease, your doctor will guide you in what fluid restriction is right for you. Performing any activity during a hot summer day may dehydrate you and make you more thirsty than normal. It's important to plan ahead and continue to monitor your fluid intake to stay within your suggested guidelines.
  • Be sure to warm up and cool down. If you don't regularly exercise, start by stretching, and then ease slowly into your activity for the first 5 to 10 minutes. This can include walking in place, walking in water before a swim, or biking at a slow pace.  Once finished with your activity, cool down by doing something similar to your warm up, rather than stopping abruptly.
  • Talk with your physician before beginning any regular activity about his or her recommendations on when to begin, duration, intensity and type of exercise.

1. American Association of Kidney Patients. The importance of exercise. Available at: http://www.aakp.org/aakp-library/importance-of-exercise/. Accessed July 13, 2011.
2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Aerobic exercise: Top 10 reasons to get physical. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aerobic-exercise/EP00002/NSECTIONGROUP=2. Accessed July 14, 2011.
3. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Disease National Resource Center. Exercise for your bone health. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Exercise/default.asp. Accessed July 14, 2011.

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