School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


15 Apr 2021

Cycling study transforms heart health of dialysis patients

Cycling at moderate intensity during dialysis could drastically improve the heart health of patients with kidney failure and result in significant savings for the NHS, according to new research led by James Burton and Matthew Graham-Brown from the University of Leicester, and co-authored by David Stensel and Nicolette Bishop from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Science at Loughborough University, among others.

Patients in the CYCLE-HD study, supported by the charity Kidney Research UK and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, were offered 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on a specially adapted bicycle during their regular dialysis sessions.

Dialysis can lead to long-term scarring of the heart, which can accumulate over time and lead to heart failure. The study set out to examine whether exercise could reduce these side-effects.

After six months, participants’ hearts were assessed with an MRI scan and compared with pre-trial imaging. Patients who had cycled showed improvements in several aspects of heart health – their hearts were more like a ‘normal’ size, they had less scarring, and there was less stiffness of the major blood vessels.

Analysis of the study also demonstrated a saving in healthcare costs of more than £1,400 per patient which, when balanced against the cost of the exercise equipment, could result in significant savings for the NHS.

Read the paper in full on the Kidney International website.