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 asthma or lung disease.
- You have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
- You have kidney disease.
- You have arthritis.
- You're being treated for cancer, or you have recently completed cancer treatment.
You should also check with your doctor if you have symptoms suggestive of heart, lung or other serious disease such as:
- Pain or discomfort in your chest, neck, jaw or arms 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 vigorous exercise if two or more of the following apply:
- You're older than 35 years.
- You have a family history of heart disease before age 60.
- You smoke or you quit smoking in the past six months.
- You don't normally exercise for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week.
- You're significantly overweight.
- You have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- You have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or you have impaired glucose tolerance (also called prediabetes).
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.