Football legend Andy Cole is calling for fellow transplant recipients to sign up for free NHS fitness classes.
The former Manchester United and England striker is among 42,000 living with a functioning transplant and one of three million UK survivors of kidney disease.
They are at higher risk of Covid-19 if attending hospitals or a gym due to the immunosuppressant drugs they have to take to stop their body rejecting the organ.
Weight gain is among the symptoms of kidney disease – the former Newcastle forward suffered cruel taunts as his body ballooned.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, people with kidney disease attended rehab sessions in outpatient clinics.
Face-to-face hospital classes were cancelled to protect patients although most had to shield anyway.
The online NHS Kidney Beam classes are led by medical experts from NHS trusts such as physiotherapists and counsellors as well as those living with kidney issues.
Andy Cole, 49, said his pilates session was “cool, and not too strenuous” and that his lockdown exercise regime was “life-saving” for his mind and body.
He added: “Mentally, it’s important to me to stay active and fit. I think my workout capacity has gone down due to only having one functioning kidney.
“But I say to myself that’s no excuse not to work out.
“I believe patients will find Kidney Beam useful because, if you want to stay fit as I do, it’s a great incentive.”
Andy Cole contracted a mystery virus in 2015 and he eventually sought the help of doctors who diagnosed Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis.
This disease causes scar tissue to form on the filters that clean the blood inside the kidneys.
It led to a life-saving transplant three years ago. The kidney was donated by his nephew Alexander Palmer who proved a perfect match.
Kidney patients are at higher risk of heart attacks and stroke. The reason is damaged kidneys can release too much of an enzyme called renin that controls blood pressure.
That is why the NHS encourages them to exercise regularly and keep active.
Andy is one of the first to sign up for the NHS classes being offered to free for millions of kidney patients.
The programme, developed by Kidney Research UK and King’s College Hospital in London, includes home exercise workouts including yoga and pilates.
The service also provides specially designed movement classes as well as expert advice for transplant recipients on topics such as sleep and social isolation.
Andy Cole’s class was led by Sharlene Greenwood, a physiotherapy expert from King’s who helped develop Kidney Beam.
The consultant was running twice weekly classes before lockdown. She said: “Many patients said they missed coming to our renal rehab classes and having that interaction with people. This is an excellent opportunity to bring something novel and exciting to the kidney community when it’s most needed.”
Kidney patients from across the UK can sign up via the Kidney Beam webpage.