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Should You See a Doctor Before Starting to Exercise?

You’re 50 years old and a pack-a-day smoker. You also have high blood pressure, and you haven’t exercised since Ronald Reagan was president. Should you see your doctor before hitting the local gym? “Regular exercise is the best gift you can give yourself. But it’s important to use common sense when getting started,” says Lance Brunton, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at UPMC Mercy who sees patients at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

If you’re in generally good health and starting off with light to moderate physical activity, an extensive medical workup probably isn’t necessary. “But if you’ve been diagnosed with any medical condition, have been sedentary for some time, or are at risk for potential heart problems, it’s essential to talk to your doctor,” advises Dr. Brunton.

“Working together, you and your doctor can create the right exercise plan based on your age, physical condition, family history, and other key factors.”

If you’re over the age of 40, take the American College of Sports Medicine’s Physical Activity Readiness Self-Exam below.

Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire

  1. Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
  2. Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
  3. In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
  4. Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
  5. Do you have a bone or joint problem (for example, back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
  6. Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (for example, water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
  7. Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, see your doctor before you start becoming much more physically active or before you have a fitness appraisal.

Source: American College of Sports Medicine

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