Do I need to take special steps before getting started?

Depending on your condition, your doctor might recommend certain precautions before exercising.

If you have diabetes, for example, keep in mind that physical activity lowers blood sugar. Check your blood sugar level before any activity. If you take insulin or diabetes medications that lower blood sugar, you might need to eat a snack before exercising to help prevent low blood sugar.

If you have arthritis, consider taking a warm shower before you exercise. Heat can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you might have before you begin. Also, be sure to choose shoes that provide shock absorption and stability during exercise.

What kind of discomfort can I expect?

Talk to your doctor about what kind of discomfort you might expect during or after exercise, as well as any tips for minimizing your pain. Find out what type or degree of pain might be normal and what might be a sign of something more serious.

If you have heart disease, for example, signs or symptoms that you should stop exercising include dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, chest pain or an irregular heart beat.

What else do I need to know?

Starting a regular exercise routine can be tough.

To help you stick with your routine, consider exercising with a friend. You might also ask your doctor to recommend an exercise program for people who have your condition, perhaps through a local hospital, clinic or health club.

To stay motivated, choose activities that are fun, set realistic goals and celebrate your progress.

Share any concerns you might have about your exercise program — from getting started to keeping it up — with your doctor.

Oct. 25, 2012 See more In-depth