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

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