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New study confirms Kidney Beam physical activity digital health programme improves mental health and self-management in kidney patients

14 November 2023

Research published in The Lancet Digital Health by Dr Sharlene Greenwood from King’s College Hospital, London, has shown that patients who used the Kidney Beam exercise and lifestyle management app, developed with support from Kidney Research UK and King’s College Hospital NHS Trust, had improvements in mental health, the ability to self-manage their condition, and physical function when compared to patients who did not access Kidney Beam.

Sharlene Greenwood
Dr Sharlene Greenwood

Exciting new results from the Kidney Beam programme

In this study 340 adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD) from 11 hospitals across the UK were randomly assigned to either the Kidney Beam physical activity digital health intervention or a control group receiving usual care. After 12 weeks, researchers compared changes in measures of mental health-related quality of life, self-management behaviour and physical function between the two groups. Dr Greenwood and her team found that patients in the Kidney Beam group showed significant improvements in several important measures including mental health related quality of life, self-management behaviour, energy, and social and physical function.

Dr Greenwood commented, "We know that low levels of physical activity are linked to poorer outcomes in CKD and there is currently limited rehabilitation support for this group of patients. Face-to-face kidney-specific rehabilitation is only offered in 3 out of 84 kidney units across the UK and is a postcode lottery. This is the first time that a randomised controlled trial has shown that the mental health-related quality of life of people with CKD can be improved by an online physical activity programme; we are delighted that Kidney Beam is now scientifically proven to benefit this at-risk group. Staying active when you have a long-term condition is not always easy and we hope that this programme will be available to many more patients in the future."

A laptop open showing the Kidney Beam website homepage

All about Kidney Beam

Kidney Beam is an exercise and lifestyle management app designed for kidney patients; it offers a way to improve physical activity levels from home. Registered individuals can choose from a selection of live movement or on-demand classes, including yoga, Pilates, high intensity training (HIIT) and other online sessions. The programme was developed by NHS health professionals and other qualified instructors, including those with lived experience. The classes are suitable for all abilities, any kidney condition, and at any stage of kidney disease.

What next for Kidney Beam?

Dr Greenwood and the Kidney Beam team are looking to maximise the number of patients who can benefit from Kidney Beam. She commented: "We want to make sure that all UK kidney patients are able to access Kidney Beam and we are working with our patient advisers to develop new content that will appeal to different populations. I am working with NHS England on a new clinical policy to support NHS commissioning. We also plan further research to investigate this approach in other countries, and potentially other health conditions."

Additional research publications on the health economics of Kidney Beam are planned for later this year. Dr Aisling McMahon, executive director of research and policy at Kidney Research UK added "Kidney Beam was developed in response to urgent unmet patient need during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are delighted that it will continue to benefit patients in the future. We would like to congratulate everyone involved in Kidney Beam for their success in bringing this highly effective programme to our patients during a very difficult period."

Why is exercise important for kidney patients?

Staying active is important for the health and wellbeing of everyone, including people living with CKD. Exercise can help to keep you mobile, healthy and strong. It can even lift your mood and help you sleep better. Support for people with kidney disease is not always routinely offered and available programmes may not be equally available to everyone who could benefit. Digital-based exercise programmes, such as Kidney Beam, can allow greater participation and, with careful development, appeal to many different patients.

Find out more about exercise and CKD.

The Kidney Beam trial was initially supported by a Kidney Research UK grant of £64,000 and currently operates in partnership with Kidney Research UK, the National Kidney Federation, the UK Kidney Association, the Irish Kidney Association and several NHS England Renal Clinical Networks.

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