Sports Medicine

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 125–153 | Cite as

Exercise and Renal Function

  • Jacques R. Poortmans
Review Article


Exercise induces profound changes in the renal haemodynamics and in electrolyte and protein excretion. Effective renal plasma flow is reduced during exercise. The reduction is related to the intensity of exercise and renal blood flow may fall to 25% of the resting value when strenuous work is performed. The combination of sympathetic nervous activity and the release of catecholamine substances is involved in this process. The reduction of renal blood flow during exercise produces a concomitant effect on the glomerular filtration rate, though the latter decreases relatively less than the former during exertion. However, the degree of hydration has an important influence on the glomerular filtration rate. An antidiuretic effect is observed during intense exercise. Changes in urine flow are dependent on the plasma antidiuretic hormone levels which are increased by intense exercise.

Heavy exercise has an inhibitory effect on most electrolytes (Na, CI, Ca, P). With potassium, however, most studies report that potassium excretion is not consistently affected by moderate to heavy exercise. Increased aldosterone production helps the body to maintain sodium by increasing its reabsorption from the filtered tubular fluid. Recent studies suggest that sympathetic stimulation may be involved during exercise. Strenuous work leads to an increased excretion of erythrocytes and leucocyctes in urine. Cylindruria has been regularly found in postexercise urine in different sports.

Postexercise proteinuria is a common phenomenon in humans. It seems to be directly related to the intensity of exercise, rather than to its duration. This excretion of proteins in urine is a transient state with a half-time of approximately I hour. Postexercise proteinuria has a pattern different from normal physiological proteinuria. Immunochemical techniques demonstrate that postexercise proteinuria is of the mixed glomerular-tubular type, the former being predominant. The increased clearance of plasma proteins suggests an increased glomerular permeability and a partial inhibition of tubular reabsorption of macromolecules.

Haemoglobinuria and myoglobinuria may be observed under special exercise conditions. The degree of hydration appears to be important to reduce these abnormalities.


Proteinuria Renal Blood Flow Apply Physiology Tubular Reabsorption Renal Plasma Flow 
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© ADIS Press Limited 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacques R. Poortmans
    • 1
  1. 1.Chimie Physiologique, Laboratoire de l’Effort, Institut Supérieur d’Education Physique et de KinésithérapieUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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