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 40 or a woman older than age 50
  • You smoke
  • You're overweight or obese
  • You have a chronic health condition, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • You've had a heart attack
  • You have a family history of heart-related problems before age 55
  • You feel pain in your chest or become dizzy with exertion
  • You're unsure if you're in good health

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 pain or tightness
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Pain in an arm or your jaw
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Excessive fatigue

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 the doctor to have your blood pressure checked as often.

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, or at least one hour after exercising.

Dec. 07, 2012 See more In-depth