Effects of Exercise Training on Restless Legs Syndrome, Depression, Sleep Quality, and Fatigue Among Hemodialysis Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2018 Apr;55(4):1184-1195. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2017.12.472. Epub 2017 Dec 14.


Context: Hemodialysis (HD) patients experience a heavy symptom burden that leads to a decreased quality of life. Pharmacological treatment is effective but costly and has adverse effects. Exercise is a promising approach for symptom management, but the effect of exercise on restless legs syndrome (RLS), depression, sleep quality, and fatigue in HD patients is still uncertain.

Objectives: This meta-analysis was conducted to identify whether exercise training is beneficial in the treatment of the symptoms of RLS, depression, poor sleep quality, and fatigue in patients receiving HD.

Methods: A systematic search of PubMed, Embase, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, PsycINFO, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Web of Science was conducted to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing exercise training with routine care on RLS, depression, sleep quality, and fatigue among HD patients. Quality assessment was conducted using the Cochrane risk of bias tool, and RevMan 5.3 was used to analyze the data.

Results: Fifteen RCTs that met our inclusion criteria were included. The pooled effect size showed that exercise training was effective on RLS (P < 0.001), depression (P < 0.001), and fatigue (P < 0.001). However, effect size combinations for sleep quality were not performed owing to the sensitivity analysis results.

Conclusion: Exercise training may help HD patients to reduce the severity of RLS, depression, and fatigue. More high-quality RCTs with larger samples and comparative RCTs focused on different exercise regimens are needed.

Keywords: Exercise; depression; fatigue; hemodialysis; restless legs syndrome; sleep quality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / therapy*
  • Sleep*