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Exercise is good for you. It doesn’t matter what your size is, what diseases you suffer from, where you live or how you move, a moderate amount of exercise will keep your body and mind in better health1.
Yet, most healthcare experts heartily recommend seeing a healthcare professional before you make any changes to your current exercise regimen. So, if exercise is so universally good, why would anyone need to get their exercise plans okayed by a doctor?
Some Types of Exercise Can Worsen Some Health Conditions
Exercise strengthens the body by subjecting it to different types of stress2, which tell bodily systems to improve their functionality in certain ways. For example, cardio exercise forces the cardiovascular system to work harder, which tells the body that the cardiovascular system needs improvement. Likewise, strength training causes damage to muscles and joints, which compels the body to strengthen muscles and bones to compensate.
However, some people have health conditions that make certain types of exercise exceedingly dangerous. For example, if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, placing strain on your cardiovascular system could put you at risk of heart attack3; if you have arthritis, any form of high-impact exercise is likely to cause excessive damage and pain to joints. Many other health conditions, like diabetes, kidney disease and cancer, can impact the body’s performance and make it risky to engage in vigorous physical activity4.
Thus, if you suffer from any health condition, it might be wise to check with your doctor before you try any new type of exercise. You might be able to call your primary care provider to seek answers instead of scheduling an appointment, or you can connect with a provider through an online doctor’s visit to get more information about how specific types of exercise might affect your condition.
Doctors Can Help You Identify the Best Exercise Regimen for You
Many people are eager to begin exercising, but it can be difficult to know where to start. The world of fitness is vast, and though experienced athletes can make some workouts seem easy, many forms of exercise take time and practice to have effects.
If you are inexperienced at exercise, you might want to consult with a healthcare provider who is likely to have more knowledge about different workout regimens appropriate for people of your size, shape, age and ability. If you do not suffer from any health conditions and are in relatively good shape, you might be able to experiment with different types of exercise without guidance from a physician, but it does not hurt to get a second opinion about the best forms of exercise for your body.
A Doctor’s Visit Can Give You a Health Baseline to Track Your Progress
At most in-person doctor’s visits, you will undergo a battery of basic tests to help the provider understand your current level of health. Typically, providers within the office will weigh you, measure your height and take readings of your blood pressure and blood oxygenation5, and your doctor may listen to your heart and lungs and feel other vital organs to assess their health. You might also request additional tests, like blood tests to check for blood cell counts, hormone levels, cholesterol levels, metabolic performance, thyroid performance and more.
All of these tests can provide you information about your health today, before you begin your exercise regimen. You might perform the tests again after one year of regular exercise to understand how your new commitment to movement is altering your body and improving your health. These tests might also provide guidance in selecting the type of exercise you engage in, as they could reveal weaknesses in your physical health that you can address through working out.
For some, effective exercise is no more complicated than a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood once per day. For others, exercise can be much more intensive, involving fast movements and heavy weights that put the body’s systems to the test. Regardless, you should talk to a healthcare professional before you engage in a new form of exercise, so you know for certain that your body is capable of performing to your expectations and that you will do more good than harm with your exercise regimen.
- Hayes, Diane, and Catherine E. Ross. “Body and mind: The effect of exercise, overweight, and physical health on psychological well-being.” Journal of health and social behavior (1986): 387-400. ↩︎
- Keay, Kevin A., and Richard Bandler. “Parallel circuits mediating distinct emotional coping reactions to different types of stress.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 25.7-8 (2001): 669-678. ↩︎
- Paffenbarger Jr, Ralph S., Alvin L. Wing, and Robert T. Hyde. “Physical activity as an index of heart attack risk in college alumni.” American Journal of epidemiology 108.3 (1978): 161-175. ↩︎
- Nader, Philip R., et al. “Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity from ages 9 to 15 years.” Jama 300.3 (2008): 295-305. ↩︎
- Severinghaus, John W. “Monitoring oxygenation.” Journal of clinical monitoring and computing 25 (2011): 155-161. ↩︎