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.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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.

Jan. 16, 2019 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Slide show: 5 smart exercise choices for psoriatic arthritis
  2. 6 tips for an active getaway you'll remember
  3. Accentuate the positive to make lasting health changes
  4. An appointment to exercise? You bet!
  5. Are you ready for a workout?
  6. Balance training: Boost your long-term health with these exercises
  7. Barriers to fitness
  8. Blood Doping
  9. BMI calculator
  10. Body fat analyzers
  11. Boot camp workout
  12. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  13. Core exercises
  14. Create a home gym without breaking the bank
  15. Did you exercise today? Reward yourself!
  16. Toning shoes
  17. Does fitness trump thinness?
  18. Don't have an exercise budget? Go cheap!
  19. Dress smart for winter workouts
  20. Early bird or night owl? Plan exercise accordingly
  21. Exercise benefits
  22. Exercise and chronic disease
  23. Exercise and illness
  24. Stress relief
  25. Exercise: Every minute counts!
  26. Exercising with arthritis
  27. Exercise smarter, not longer
  28. Exercising regularly? Track your progress!
  29. Fitness program
  30. Fitness: Take it 1 step at a time
  31. Fitness motivation
  32. Fitness ball exercises videos
  33. Fitness barriers: Bust 'em
  34. Fitness for less
  35. Fitness ideas for the entire family
  36. Fitness program
  37. Fitness takes more than huffing and puffing
  38. Fitness tip: Get physical at home
  39. Fitness tip: Get physical at work
  40. Fitness tip: Include your friends
  41. Fitness training routine
  42. Fitting in fitness
  43. Getting in shape after having a baby
  44. Going up? Take the stairs
  45. Golf injuries
  46. Golfers: Know when to call it quits
  47. Golfers: Tee up common sense
  48. Hanging out with friends? Activity counts!
  49. Hate to exercise? Try these tips
  50. Heart rate
  51. Heat and exercise
  52. Hockey Flywheel
  53. How fit are you?
  54. How much exercise do you really need?
  55. Improve obstructive sleep apnea with physical activity
  56. 3 easy ways to get started with yoga
  57. Is exercise a chore? No more!
  58. Keep your workout fun
  59. Know when to move your winter workout indoors
  60. Late-day exercise
  61. Marathon and the Heat
  62. Mayo Clinic Minute: How to hit your target heart rate
  63. Miss a workout? Don't give up!
  64. Natural movement: Going back to basics
  65. Need a gym to get fit?
  66. Need exercise motivation? Put it on paper
  67. Need motivation to exercise? Try a diary
  68. No pain, no gain? No way!
  69. No time for exercise? No way!
  70. Office exercise
  71. Overuse injury prevention
  72. Pregnancy and exercise
  73. Ready to get in on the aquatic fitness movement?
  74. Simple tips for staying active and mobile with osteoarthritis
  75. Core-strength exercises
  76. Guide to stretches
  77. Balance exercises
  78. Fitness ball
  79. Starting a fitness program? Take it slow
  80. Starting an exercise program: Take time to rest
  81. Stay fit and healthy — without breaking a sweat
  82. Stay fit at any age
  83. Travel and work
  84. Strength training: How-to video collection
  85. The best ways to bounce back after a tough workout
  86. 5 common sports injuries in young female athletes
  87. To stay fit, embrace the power of play
  88. Too busy to exercise? Get up earlier
  89. Too sick to exercise?
  90. Fitness tips for business travelers
  91. Walking for fitness: Getting started
  92. Want to get fit? Try backyard aerobics!
  93. What it takes to be agile at any age
  94. Winter blahs? 4 pro tips to get you off the couch.
  95. Cold-weather exercise
  96. Winter weather tip: Watch for signs of frostbite
  97. Working out? Remember to drink up
  98. Workout blahs? Don't go it alone!