After transplantation, be it kidney, liver or heart you doctors will advise you to take up some form of physical exercise. The more routine and regular the exercise the better. This is not to say that you're out to train or be an athlete but that doesn't hurt either if you want to do that. In fact, there's the Transplant Games which is held regularly that promotes camaraderie among fellow transplant patients and is made to inspire everyone to get in shape and show that being a transplant patient doesn't mean you can't get involved in sports.
Going back to physical activity. The reasons doctors want transplant patients to be active is that it is healthy. It is for regular people, but more important for those who've had transplants. This is due to the fact that most of us are on prednisone.
Prednisone is a drug used to combat rejection. But it has a lot of side effects, one of which is, with long term use will make bones weak and brittle. This makes patients, not just transplantees, who are on the drug susceptible to weaker bones that could be more prone to fractures. And in the longer term, osteoporosis.
Two trains of thought come into play with regard to physical activity. One is cardiovascular or aerobic, and other other is resistance training. For most people one or the other may work. But for transplant patients, a combination of the two is much better because you want to get the bone and muscle building effects of resistance training to battle the effects of prednisone, which not only weakens the bones, but with prolong use at sufficient doses also wastes away muscles.
Cardiovascular exercise on the other hand is there for heart health and better blood circulation. This is important because it is one of the best ways to ward off high blood pressure which is the main enemy of the kidney. It also helps keep down your lipid levels (cholesterol, triglycerides and other) to normal ranges. The one last thing it does very well is regulate blood sugar. This is vital since you diabetes is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure that also leads many to kidney disease. For those on prednisone, you'll want to add aerobic exercise to your routine since prednisone also does a number on our blood sugar levels. So if you can get off the drug or find a transplant center that follows a no prednisone protocol this would be a good way to avoid the serious side effects of the drug.
The simplest way for anyone to get a cardio workout is to walk. It's that simple. You see treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical machines all around. These do the job very well but if you don't have or want to spend extra cash then a good quick way to get yourself into any aerobic workout is to walk.
You can walk, jog or run. Your choice. But when starting out walking is the easiest. Start by taking a leisurely 5 minute walk. Then increase that by 5 minutes every week until you get 30 minutes a day, and increase the intensity until you're brisk walking. The great thing about walking is you can squeeze it in anywhere.
Take the stairs each time instead of the escalator or elevator. Walk the dog or just stroll around the a few blocks after you get home. The keys are get to 30 minutes a day and walk a good speed. This means you want to walk at least 3 MPH. Some people can go faster between 4 to 6 MPH, but 3 MPH is enough and just adjust to a pace that you feel is right when you achieve that.
If you prefer exercise equipment, a good exercise bike works very well. Other good choices would be treadmills, mini step machines and elliptical trainers.
The key to cardiovascular exercise is movement.
Resistance Training at Home
In contrast to aerobic/cardiovascular exercise, resistance training is more focused on working the muscles. This is done by lifting objects to work specific muscles. While cardio builds stamina, resistance workouts are more focused on strength.
Know that were not after size in this case. Though if you like looking buff (for the guys), and toned (for the ladies) you can go that route too.
The main goal of resistance training in this case to to build the muscles so they're strong. A strong muscular system protects your bones from carrying the load. It also reduces chances of injury in day to day activities. Lastly, they keep your bones strong.
While the goal in the aerobic workouts mentioned earlier was length of exercise and speed, the focus here is to challenge the muscles. Resistance training only works if you are challenged. So it isn't worth much if you lift something you can easily carry 50 times. What you want is to lift something that is about 70 to 80% of what you can carry at full strength for about 5 to 12 repetitions.
Working the right muscles is likewise important. And for transplant patients, this often prioritizes the spine and hips. So you'll need to work your legs.
Going to the gym and hiring a trainer is great, but a cheaper way would be to get adjustable dumbbells. Take note of the word adjustable. There are many dumbbells that are fixed in weight, you don't want that since you'll need heavier weights for the legs and lighter ones for the arms. Also when you get stronger you need to increase weight to get any lasting effects. You won't want to keep buying new sets of weights.
Including the Two Exercise Types in Your Regimen
Combining resistance training and cardiovascular exercise isn't difficult. If you want something that's very structured an easy way to go about it would be to take every other day. Or you could also insert the cardio workout as the warm up before every resistance training workout.
An alternative would be to try a rowing machine. This is an indoor rowing equipment that mimics rowing a boat on water. What you do is row for a specific amount of time at a specified pace. This gives you the cardiovascular portion of the workout. The rowing motion, which starts with the legs pushing then the back pulling along with the arms works the legs, hips and back the most which are the most important body parts transplant patients want to work on.
There are a lot of rowing machines around and you don't have to get the high end Concept2 rowers which are expensive. Though they're awesome. There are a lot of affordable home rowing machines that work really well.
If you don't believe me, take a look at the world class rowers in the Olympics. These guys are tested for their lung capacity and breathing ability. And if you look at their stature, they're built solid from head to toe with the strongest muscles being the legs/thighs and back.