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:

  • Running
  • Swimming laps
  • Heavy yardwork
  • Jumping rope
  • Hiking uphill

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.

  • Do you have a heart problem?
  • Do you have chest pain or discomfort when you exercise or are active? Do you have this pain even when you are not exercising?
  • Does your heart often beat too fast or too slow when you are at rest?
  • Do you become lightheaded, lose your balance, or lose consciousness? Have you fallen more than 2 times in the past year?
  • Do you have problems with your bones or joints? If so, does it get worse when you exercise? Do your legs or buttocks hurt when you walk?
  • Do you take medications to treat a heart condition or a blood pressure problem?
  • Do you have any wounds on your feet? Do these wounds take a long time to heal?
  • In the past six months, have you lost weight for no clear reason?
  • Can you think of any reason why you should not get involved in 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.

RESOURCES:

American Council on Exercise
http://www.acefitness.org
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
http://www.fitness.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
http://www.csep.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

References:

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

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