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.

Feb. 24, 2021 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. Blood Doping
  7. Boot camp workout
  8. Can I exercise if I have atopic dermatitis?
  9. Core exercises
  10. Create a home gym without breaking the bank
  11. Did you exercise today? Reward yourself!
  12. Don't have an exercise budget? Go cheap!
  13. Dress smart for winter workouts
  14. Early bird or night owl? Plan exercise accordingly
  15. Exercise benefits
  16. Exercise and chronic disease
  17. Exercise and illness
  18. Stress relief
  19. Exercise: Every minute counts!
  20. Exercising with arthritis
  21. Exercising regularly? Track your progress!
  22. Fitness program
  23. Fitness: Take it 1 step at a time
  24. Fitness motivation
  25. Fitness ball exercises videos
  26. Fitness barriers: Bust 'em
  27. Fitness for less
  28. Fitness program
  29. Fitness takes more than huffing and puffing
  30. Fitness tip: Get physical at home
  31. Fitness tip: Get physical at work
  32. Fitness tip: Include your friends
  33. Fitness training routine
  34. Getting in shape after having a baby
  35. Going up? Take the stairs
  36. Golf injuries
  37. Golfers: Know when to call it quits
  38. Golfers: Tee up common sense
  39. Hanging out with friends? Activity counts!
  40. Hate to exercise? Try these tips
  41. Heart rate
  42. Hockey Flywheel
  43. How fit are you?
  44. Is exercise a chore? No more!
  45. Keep your workout fun
  46. Know when to move your winter workout indoors
  47. Marathon and the Heat
  48. BMI and waist circumference calculator
  49. Mayo Clinic Minute: How to hit your target heart rate
  50. Miss a workout? Don't give up!
  51. Need a gym to get fit?
  52. Need exercise motivation? Put it on paper
  53. Need motivation to exercise? Try a diary
  54. No pain, no gain? No way!
  55. No time for exercise? No way!
  56. Overuse injury prevention
  57. Pregnancy and exercise
  58. Core-strength exercises
  59. Guide to stretches
  60. Balance exercises
  61. Fitness ball
  62. Starting a fitness program? Take it slow
  63. Starting an exercise program: Take time to rest
  64. Travel and work
  65. Strength training: How-to video collection
  66. Too busy to exercise? Get up earlier
  67. Too sick to exercise?
  68. Walking for fitness: Getting started
  69. Want to get fit? Try backyard aerobics!
  70. Cold-weather exercise
  71. Winter weather tip: Watch for signs of frostbite
  72. Working out? Remember to drink up
  73. Workout blahs? Don't go it alone!