A UVA Heart & Vascular Center Initiative

Exercise Advice: What to Ask Your Doctor Before Starting a New Routine

Posted December 09, 2013

Here at Club Red, we’ve talked about the importance of getting and staying fit for the long-term. We’ve also talked about the harmful effects of sitting too much and offered these tips for sneaking more exercise into your day.

new exercise routine But you may still have questions about how to prevent injury and common setbacks. To help Club Red readers stay safe and motivated, we talked to Lyndsey Hunter, an exercise physiology intern with UVA Heart & Vascular Center, for advice on why it’s important to ask your doctor key questions.

What to know before getting started

“Almost anyone at any age can do some type of physical activity, even with a long-term condition like heart disease or diabetes,” says Hunter. “In fact, physical activity can help manage these conditions more successfully, but it is important to check with your doctor before starting a new activity. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, previously inactive women over age 50 should consult a physician before starting a program of vigorous physical activity they are not accustomed to.”

Sample question #1: Do I have a medical condition that affects the kind of exercise I should be doing?

Why it’s important: Talking through your current health conditions and options for exercise with your doctor will help set the foundation for a safe and realistic exercise plan. If you go into an exercise program knowing that it’s right for you, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and not get discouraged or, even worse, injured.

Sample question #2: Will my current medications affect exercise?

Why it’s important: Some medications affect the way the body responds to exercise. For example, if you’re taking medication that affects your heart rate, using your heart rate might not be the best way to gauge intensity.

Sample question #3: What symptoms should I watch out for during and after exercise?

Why it’s important: Some symptoms, like dehydration, dizziness, joint pain and shortness of breath can indicate a more serious problem. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful; in fact, it shouldn’t be. If walking feels better to you than running, then keep walking. The “no pain, no gain” mentality that so many of us have become accustomed to is not a sustainable or safe way to exercise.

Sample question #4: How intense and frequent should my workouts be?

Why it’s important: As a general rule, it’s best to start gradually and work up to higher intensity activities as you build up your exercise tolerance. By asking your doctor how many days a week you should exercise, how long your sessions should be and what level of intensity you should strive for, you can avoid stress on the body and orthopedic injuries.

Are your baseline biometrics up to date? Schedule an appointment with one of our primary care physicians to find out, and start planning your fitness goals today.


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