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

The American Council on Exercise offers the following advice to help you determine if you need a doctor's permission BEFORE starting an exercise program.


General Guidelines

If you're planning to participate in vigorous activities and are a man over 40 or a woman over 50, you should have a medical exam first. The same is true if you have two or more coronary artery disease risk factors, which include:

(1) Age (men older than 45, woman older than 55)

(2) Family history
(3) Current cigarette smoking

(4) High blood pressure

(5) High cholesterol
(6) Diabetes

(7) Physical inactivity

(8) Obesity


Specific Questions to Ask Yourself
Ask yourself the following questions to help determine if you need an exercise program recommended by a physician. If you answer "yes" to any ONE of the following questions, you should talk with your doctor BEFORE you start an exercise program.


1. Have you been told you have a heart condition and should only participate in physical activity recommended by a doctor?


2. Do you feel pain (or discomfort) in your chest when you do physical activity? Do you feel this pain when you are not participating in physical activity?


3. While at rest, do yo frequently experience fast, irregular heartbeats or very slow heartbeats?


4. Do you ever become dizzy and lose your balance, or lose consciousness? Have you fallen more than twice in the past year (no matter what the reason)?


5. Do you have a bone or joint problem that could worsen as a result of physical activity? Do you have pain in your legs or buttocks when you walk?


6. Do yo take medications for blood pressure or a heart condition?


7. Do you have any cuts or wounds on your feet that doesn't seem to heal?


8. Have you experienced unexplained weight loss in the past six months?


9. Are you aware of any reason why you should not participate in physical activity?


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 40 or a woman over 50 and want to exercise more vigorously, you should check with your physician before getting started.

For many people, starting an exercise program for the first time is quite safe. But depending on your age and whether you have certain cardiovascular risk factors, you may need to see your physician before starting a program of vigorous (as opposed to moderate) aerobic activity.