BACKGROUND:Reduced bone and muscle health in individuals with CKD contributes to their higher rates of morbidity and mortality. METHODS:We tested the hypothesis that voluntary wheel running would improve musculoskeletal health in a CKD rat model. Rats with spontaneous progressive cystic kidney disease (Cy/+ IU) and normal littermates (NL) were given access to a voluntary running wheel or standard cage conditions for 10 weeks starting at 25 weeks of age when the rats with kidney disease had reached stage 2-3 of CKD. We then measured the effects of wheel running on serum biochemistry, tissue weight, voluntary grip strength, maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max), body composition and bone micro-CT and mechanics. RESULTS:Wheel running improved serum biochemistry with decreased creatinine, phosphorous, and parathyroid hormone in the rats with CKD. It improved muscle strength, increased time-to-fatigue (for VO2max), reduced cortical porosity and improved bone microarchitecture. The CKD rats with voluntary wheel access also had reduced kidney cystic weight and reduced left ventricular mass index. CONCLUSIONS:Voluntary wheel running resulted in multiple beneficial systemic effects in rats with CKD and improved their physical function. Studies examining exercise interventions in patients with CKD are warranted.