Patients pedal - Cyclists kick treatment up a gear

DIALYSIS patients are working on their cycling skills while having treatment as part of an Armidale trial.

About 11,000 Australians spent several hours last week hooked up to dialysis machines, restricted and confined to a comfortable chair until the complex process was complete, but UNE honours student Debra Carlson wants patients to make better use of that time.

Using an ergometer exercise cycle, patients taking part in the study now spend up to two hours pedalling while attached to the dialysis machine.

“Haemodialysis patients can spend five or six hours on the dialysis machine, three days a week, which is a really long time to be sedentary just sitting in a chair, away from work, loved ones and the chance to exercise,” Ms Carlson said.

The health outlook for patients who suffer from chronic kidney disease – or renal failure – is often bleak unless they can adjust to substantial lifestyle changes, including a strict diet and regular exercise. 

“While the idea of patients training while undergoing dialysis treatment isn’t new, this research is investigating the effect of interval training for haemodialysis patients, which has not been done before in the New England region,” she said.

The plan is to take the program to Tamworth Hospital next year, where about 60  dialysis patients could participate.

Patients who are unable to cycle with their legs use a specially designed ergometer which they cycle with their arms. 

Julianne Oxley, renal dietician at Armidale Referral Hospital, is grateful for the work being done in the study.

“The patients are happier, and the exercise improves their appetite, which is important as many dialysis patients become malnourished,” she said.

“There are really only positives to this program.”

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