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Higher Physical Activity Is Associated With Less Fatigue and Insomnia Among Patients on Hemodialysis



Patients on hemodialysis experience a heavy burden of symptoms that may be related to the low levels of physical activity reported in this population. We hypothesized that physical activity would be inversely related to symptom severity and that depression might mediate this association.


We designed a cross-sectional study of 48 patients receiving hemodialysis at 3 San Francisco dialysis clinics. Physical activity was measured using pedometers and recorded within 1 week of symptom assessment. Symptoms were assessed using total symptom burden and severity on the Dialysis Symptom Index (DSI; burden 0-29, severity 0-145), individual symptoms on the DSI (0-5), Kidney Disease Quality of Life Vitality scores, (0-100), and the Center for Epidemiologic Study-Depression (0-60).


Median daily step count was 2631 (25th, 75th percentile 1125, 5278). Seventy-three percent of patients reported fatigue. After adjustment for age, sex, diabetes, and serum albumin, physical activity was associated with 0.2 points lower fatigue severity per 1000 steps per day (95% confidence interval [CI] -0.3 to 0.0), P = 0.04. Physical activity was also associated with higher Vitality score (2.36 points per 1000 steps; 95% CI 0.07-4.65) and lower insomnia scores (-0.1 points per 1000 steps; 95% CI -0.3 to 0.0], P < 0.05) in our adjusted models. Physical activity was not associated with other symptoms.


Because the study was cross-sectional, we cannot determine whether physical activity lowers fatigue and insomnia or whether less insomnia and fatigue increase physical activity. However, interventions to increase physical activity should be considered alongside current strategies as a possible approach to managing fatigue and insomnia.

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