How Regular Exercise Can Prevent Kidney Stones
Kidney stone pain has been often compared to the pain of childbirth. So, it’s obvious you don’t want to get one. They’re severe. And once you’ve had one, the chances of having more start increasing.
There are lots of things you can do to help prevent kidney stones; things like drinking more water and changing your diet (more on that in a minute!).
But there’s one thing you may not have ever considered before: exercise.
Regular exercising can actually decrease your chances of getting a kidney stone – and it doesn’t even have to be crazy, strenuous amounts of exercise.
Just living an active lifestyle can be the key to staying kidney stone free (not to mention all the other incredible health benefits).
Curious how kidney stones and moving your body are connected? Well, I have four reasons down below to answer your question.
Then we will get into things like what types of exercises to do – and what to do about exercise when you have a kidney stone right now.
How Regular Exercise Can Prevent Kidney Stones
1. Obesity Leads To Kidney Stones
Obesity leads to an increase in two types of compounds: uric acid and oxalate. Guess what too much of those compounds leads to? You guessed it… kidney stones. In fact calcium-oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stone.
(Another factor that strengthens the obesity and kidney stone connection is the fact that obese people are often more likely to have more animal products, salt, and sugar in their diets. All of which lead to kidney stones.)
It is important for anyone who is overweight or obese to start with an exercise regimen that can ease them into more strenuous workout regimens. Start with:
- Walking: Take a walk after dinner, take a walk before work, and take a walk on your lunch break. Just get your body moving more than it was moving before.
- Swimming: If walking is too hard on any of your joints, being in the water will immediately take the pressure off (plus, it can simply be more fun!)
- Strength Training: The more you tone your muscles, the more fat you will be able to burn. Investing in a personal trainer for a session or two can help you learn how to use all the equipment in your gym with confidence.
Know that more than 1 in 3 American adults are considered obese. You are not alone in the struggle. Your heart, your lungs, your digestive system – and yes, your kidneys, will all benefit with healthy weight loss.
Not sure if you are overweight or obese? Learning your BMI can be a good guide for figuring it out (though not a perfect guide, as it doesn’t account for muscle and other body composition.)
The National Institutes of Health has a simple BMI calculator. Just enter your height and weight, and it will give you your number. If it is 30 or greater, you are considered obese – and therefore, at a heightened risk of kidney stones.
2. But It’s Not Just About Losing Weight
If you’re not obese, don’t start thinking that exercise can’t help you prevent kidney stones. That’s not the only reason exercise is effective. In fact, you could be extremely thin and still benefit.
One large study looked at 84,225 women for around 8 years. They discovered a direct connection between stones and activity.
- The women who exercised the lightest still had a 16% less chance of developing a kidney stone than women who were sedentary.
- Women who worked out more frequently/more strenuously had a 31% less chance of developing a kidney stone than women who were sedentary.
And it wasn’t just because these women had lower BMIs. The researchers found exercise may be independent from weight in terms of kidney stones.
So that means you should think about exercise like a double whammy to those terrible stones. In and of itself, it lowers your risk. But it also helps prevent obesity, which also lowers your risk.
3. Better Alternative To Weight Loss Surgeries
So if you’re thinking, “I have so much weight to lose. I feel defeated. I’ll just get weight loss surgery to help my health and lower my chances of kidney stones” …. You may want to think again.
Weight loss surgery, particularly gastric bypass, can actually increase your chance of kidney stones. Oxalate (a substance responsible for most kidney stones) increases post surgery. Plus, there will be low urine volume for a while (another risk for kidney stones).
One study even called the two – weight loss surgery and kidney stones – “irrevocably linked.”
So, once again, exercise – along with a calorie-restricted diet filled with nutritious food choices – wins again. If you are obese, talk to your doctor about all of your options outside of weight loss surgeries.
And remember this: if you invest the money you would have spent on the surgery with personal trainers and dieticians, you could have kidney-stone-free results, and a new lifestyle that will keep the weight off for good.
4. Lowers Your Blood Pressure
Exercise lowers blood pressure. But why mention that in an article on kidney stones? Well, if you have high blood pressure, your risk of kidney stones doubles (some say it actually triples.)
If you have high blood pressure, have a check up with your doctor before starting a new workout routine. As long as you get the go ahead, you should be able to start any type of workout that you’d like.
Ideally, you will have a mix of cardio, weights, and stretching. Maybe two days a week you go for a jog, two days a week you lift weights (one upper body, one lower body), and once or twice a week you take a nice yoga class.
Aim for no less than 5 days a week for blood pressure maintenance.
Kidney Stone Exercises
They key for kidney stone prevention through exercise is more about consistency than level of difficulty. It is important to choose activities that are sustainable and fun for you.
The first step is to get active in some way every single day. Walk whenever you can. Choose a fun family activity (like visiting a museum or going to the pool) instead of watching TV. Go for a walk in the park with your friends instead of meeting for coffee/lunch. Bike instead of drive.
If you feel like you are sedentary most of the time, just making plans outside of work and the house gets you moving. Volunteer at a food kitchen. Go camping. Visit the batting cages or a put-put course.
Then begin your workout regimen. Some people love going to the gym; others hate it. If you don’t want to hit the treadmill and pound the weights, there are so many other ways to exercise for kidney stone prevention.
- Play Frisbee
- Take your dog on daily walks
- Try a free yoga class
- Try a free Pilates class
- Go biking/mountain biking
- Take karate lessons
- Take kickboxing lessons
- Go rock climbing (many cities have indoor rock climbing gyms)
- Take ballroom dancing lessons
- Jump on your kid’s trampoline
- Clean the house
- Join a local recreational league (softball, kickball, basketball, soccer, etc.)
- Go sledding, skiing, or snowboarding
- Learn how to play the drums
- Pick up tennis
- Try surfing or stand-up paddleobarding
- Rollerblade in your neighborhood
- Join a bowling league
YouTube is also a great resource for fun at-home workouts. Follow YouTube workout videos. Here’s a 45-minute cardio and sculpting workout you can do in the comfort of your own home:
Don’t Forget About Your Diet
Diet and exercise always go hand in hand. And when it comes to kidney stones, the same is true. While it is super important to get moving and start your exercise regiment it is equally important (if not more important) to focus on your diet.
First off, studies show that regularly eating more than 2,200 calories a day can increase your risk of kidney stone by almost half. If you are eating over this amount, talk to your doctor or a dietician about your calorie eating goals.
Healthline has a calorie calculator to give you a general idea of how many calories you should be eating each day to maintain your weight or lose weight (never try the “lose weight fast” calories unless told to by a medical professional.)
Then you need to focus on getting rid of/limiting kidney stone causing foods. This includes:
- Animal protein (Try to eat vegan meals a few times a week. When you do eat meat, have less than you normally do and fill up with extra veggies.)
- High oxalate-containing foods
A Note On Exercising WITH Kidney Stones
Up to this point we have talked about exercise keeping the kidney stones away. But what about exercising while you have a kidney stone?
If your pain is at a very severe point, you will certainly not feel like going out for a run or squatting.
If you currently have a kidney stone, but are not in terrible pain, you may be able to continue light exercise. Yoga classes, a walk, or a gentle swim may be nice. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure.
Once the stone has passed, be sure to start back to your regular exercising to prevent another one from popping up again.
Hello Workout; Goodbye Kidney Stones
Combining an active lifestyle with the proper diet is the key to keeping your kidney stones away. You should also try the all-natural herb Chanca Piedra (which means “Stone Breaker” in Spanish). This plant can help treat and prevent kidney stones.
Hopefully, you feel encouraged by this article. A manageable amount of exercise can keep you away from the terrible pain of a kidney stone. So get moving today!