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Do You Need to Talk to Your Doctor Before You Start an Exercise Program?

For many people, starting an exercise program is quite safe. However, depending on your age and heart health, you may need to see your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program. Vigorous exercise is any activity that raises both your heart and breathing rates and that you can do for about 20 minutes before getting too tired. Some examples are:

These tips from American Council on Exercise can help you decide if you need a doctor's okay before starting an exercise program.

General Guidelines

Men over 45 and women over 55 should see a doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program. You should also see a doctor first if you have 2 or more coronary artery disease risk factors, like:

Questions to Ask Yourself

If you answer "yes" to any one of these questions, talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

If you answered "no" to all of these questions and you have no cardiovascular risk factors, a moderate physical activity program should be safe for you. But again, if you are a man over 45 or a woman over 55 and want to do more vigorous exercise, you should check with your doctor before getting started.


American Council on Exercise

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports


Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology

Public Health Agency of Canada


Before you start an exercise program. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6648/before-you-start-an-exercise-program. Accessed November 30, 2020.

Coronary artery disease (CAD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116156/Coronary-artery-disease-CAD. Accessed November 30, 2020.

Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 11/30/20