Do you need to see your doctor before exercise?

Starting an exercise program isn’t easy… mentally or physically. If you have not been exercising for many years, getting back into activity can be a big shift. Especially if you have had a medical scare or a recent medical diagnosis.  These diagnoses can make exercise even harder. It’s just hard!

A question that commonly comes up though – is do I need to see my doctor before I start exercising?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published a new recommendation about doctor screening before you start an exercise program. Before, the thought was that if you had any risk factors for heart disease, you should be screened. These recommendations were considered the gold standard because of reports of persons having a heart attack after they started exercise. People who previously were inactive are at increased risk of having a heart attack after they workout compared to people who exercise all the time. But here’s the thing…  if we stuck to these recommendations, 95% of men and women over the age of 40 would be told to go see a doctor before exercising!

We don’t need another barrier to be active – we have enough of them in our heads!

The new recommendations say that screening should be done if people have symptoms related to heart disease. Things like chest pain or an irregular heart beat with exercise. If you do not have symptoms, then the benefits of working out FAR outweigh the risks of working out! Persons with symptoms related to kidney disease or COPD should also consult with their doctor or medical professional. Other than that – get at it!

These new guidelines are great! As a clinician to be honest, most older individuals would have some risk of heart disease. So go ahead and start! Listen to your body and gradually increasing your activity. That being said, if you have symptoms that get worse with exercise… STOP! Talk to your doctor and figure out a plan that makes exercise safe!

Want to start an exercise program? Check in with a physiotherapist to get guidance if you need it!


Riebe D, Franklin BA, Thompson PD, Garber CE, Whitfield GP, et al. Updating ACSM’s recommendations for exercise preparticipation health screening. Med Sci Sport Exer. 2015. 2473-2480.

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Christina Prevett

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