Objective: To evaluate the effect of a 12-week breathing-based leg exercises program on quality of life under stabilizing heart rate variability and reducing fatigue in regular hemodialysis patients. Design: Randomized controlled trial. Setting: A 94-bed hemodialysis department at a medical center in northern Taiwan. Participants: Eighty-six patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing hemodialysis were recruited and randomly assigned to the ExBr or control groups. Interventions: The breathing-based leg exercises program comprised abdominal breathing and low-intensity leg exercise, including leg lifts, quadriceps femoris contraction and knee flexion, and lasted for 15 minutes at one time, three times a week for 12 weeks. Main measure: Data was collected by using the World Health Organization quality of life assessment-brief, physiological signal recorder for heart rate variability and hemodialysis-related fatigue scale at baseline and on Week 4, Week 8, and Week 12. Results: Average (standard deviation) age was 53.70 (10.04) years in the ExBr group and 61.19 (10.19) years in the control group. The linear mixed model with adjusted age, creatinine, heart rate variability and fatigue revealed that the ExBr group had significantly higher quality of life than did the control group (P = 0.01), especially on Week 12 (P = 0.04). Fatigue was significantly correlated with quality of life (P < 0.001). Conclusion: This study supported the benefits of the continued breathing-based leg exercises during hemodialysis for at least 12 weeks, which improved the quality of life of patients with end-stage renal disease and did not affect the stability of their vital signs.
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