When you need your doctor's OK

Sometimes it's best to check with your doctor before you jump into an exercise program, especially if:

  • You're a man older than age 45 or a woman older than age 55.
  • You smoke or quit smoking in the past six months.
  • You're overweight or obese.
  • You have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or lung disease.
  • You have high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • You've had a heart attack.
  • You have a family history of heart-related problems before age 55 in men and age 65 in women.
  • You feel pain or discomfort in your chest, jaw, neck or arms during activity.
  • You become dizzy with exertion.
  • You're unsure if you're in good health or you haven't been exercising regularly.

If you take any medication regularly, ask your doctor if exercising will make it work differently or change its side effects — or if your medication will affect the way your body reacts to exercise.

Keep it safe

To reduce the risk of injury while exercising, start slowly. Remember to warm up before you exercise and cool down afterward. Build up the intensity of your workouts gradually.

Stop exercising and seek immediate medical care if you experience any warning signs during exercise, including:

  • Chest, neck, jaw or arm pain or tightness
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • An irregular heartbeat

Monitor your progress

The only way to detect high blood pressure is to keep track of your blood pressure readings. Have your blood pressure checked at each doctor's visit, or use a home blood pressure monitor.

If you already have high blood pressure, home monitoring can let you know if your fitness routine is helping to lower your blood pressure, and may make it so you don't need to visit your doctor to have your blood pressure checked as often. Home blood pressure monitoring isn't a substitute for visits to your doctor, and home blood pressure monitors may have some limitations.

If you decide to monitor your blood pressure at home, you'll get the most accurate readings if you check your blood pressure before you exercise.

Aug. 06, 2015 See more In-depth