The progressive physical deterioration of dialysis patients is apparent to all who are involved in their care. Exercise can help stem this decline, yet exercise uptake in chronic and end-stage kidney disease is low. The involvement of exercise professionals has been shown to significantly increase patients’ physical function and improve their quality of life. However, exercise professionals are scarce in renal programs, far less than dietetic and social work services. A review of 10 years of renal exercise publications in the physical therapy and rehabilitation literature found that only 0.4% (7 out of a total of 1763) of all published articles were focused on people with kidney disease. This compared with stroke (44%, n=883), arthritis/bone (29%, n=458), cancer (9%, n=168), respiratory (8%, n=106), cardiac (5%, n=82), and diabetes (3%, n=45).
These results reflect the low emphasis placed on renal rehabilitation by the physical therapy professions and the low renal content in physical therapy tertiary education programs. This is likely to have an impact on the level of involvement of physical therapists in renal programs leading to lower physical function and poorer quality of life for renal patients.