Get your Doctor’s Guidance for Fitness Journey

by Dr. Hojat Askari, Founder & Medical Director, Thumb Butte Medical Center

The most frequently used phrases in fitness articles and blogs, and one of the most frequently read over, has to be those along the lines of: “Consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.”

This disclaimer is nearly everywhere, and nearly everyone considers themselves to be in at least good enough shape for any workout they would be interested in trying out.

Several years ago experts at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recognized their existing recommendation that many people undergo a heart stress test before beginning an exercise program could unnecessarily deter many people from doing so and revised their guidance to have doctors and patients consider three factors: existing chronic disease, current activity level and intensity of planned physical activity.

  • Anyone who has symptoms of heart or kidney disease or diabetes, whether they’ve been diagnosed with these conditions, should ask their doctors before participating in moderate or vigorous activity and could be sent for a stress test.

People who have these conditions but don’t have symptoms and are already regularly exercising could be cleared to proceed after talking to their health care provider.

Symptoms to watch for include chest, neck or jaw pain, shortness of breath, dizziness after light exercise, rapid heartbeat, swollen ankles, lower leg pain while walking, heart murmur, high blood pressure, fatigue and frequent urination.

  • People who haven’t regularly exercised in a while and are leading a mostly sedentary lifestyle, which hasn’t been well defined but generally means they’re sitting, reclining or lying down for much of their waking hours, should consider talking to their doctor before beginning vigorous exercise.

Those who are sedentary but don’t have symptoms of chronic illness can consider starting out with light to moderate exercise and seeing how they progress before seeking a medical consultation.

  • Anyone who is considering an especially high-intensity, vigorous exercise plan such as HIIT, Tabata or running should consider talking to a health care provider ahead of time, particularly if it’s a big departure from current physical activity levels.