Exercise: When to check with your doctor first
Keeping physically active is key to a healthy lifestyle. But sometimes it’s best to check with your doctor before you start to exercise.
Regular exercise can help you control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, and strengthen your bones and muscles. But if it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised and you have health issues or concerns, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
When to check with your doctor
Although moderate physical activity such as brisk walking is safe for most people, health experts suggest that you talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program if any of the following apply:
- You have heart disease.
- You have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
- You have kidney disease.
- You have arthritis.
- You’re being treated for cancer, or you’ve recently completed cancer treatment.
- You have high blood pressure.
If you haven’t exercised regularly in a while, you may generally start exercising at a light to moderate level without seeing your doctor and gradually increase your activity.
You may also check with your doctor if you have symptoms that may be related to heart, lung or other serious disease such as:
- Pain or discomfort in your chest, neck, jaw or arms at rest or during physical activity
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting with exercise or exertion
- Shortness of breath with mild exertion, at rest, or when lying down or going to bed
- Ankle swelling, especially at night
- A rapid or pronounced heartbeat
- A heart murmur that your doctor has previously diagnosed
- Lower leg pain when you walk, which goes away with rest
Finally, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you see your doctor before engaging in moderate or vigorous exercise if:
- You have heart disease, kidney disease, or type 1 or 2 diabetes, but no symptoms, and you don’t normally exercise
- You have any symptoms of heart disease, kidney disease, or type 1 or 2 diabetes
When in doubt, check it out
If you’re unsure of your health status, have multiple health problems or are pregnant, speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Working with your doctor ahead of time can help you plan the exercise program that’s right for you. And that’s a good first step on your path to physical fitness.
Feb. 24, 2021
- Morey CM. Physical activity and exercise in older adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Dec. 20, 2018.
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition. Accessed Dec. 20, 2018.
- Riebe D, et al. Updating ACSM’s recommendations for exercise preparticipation health screening. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2015;47;2473.
- AskMayoExpert. Physical activity (adult). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2018.
- Health care providers’ action guide. American College of Sports Medicine. https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/health-care-providers/. Accessed Jan. 2, 2019.