Many of us may have a goal to start being active or to become more active, but sometimes we are unsure of when or how to find a safe place to start. Some might be a nagging feeling of “Do I have to check with my doctor first”? Others may not want to discount their previous health history or former injuries that make them nervous to start again. If you’re thinking of starting an exercise program, there are a few quick questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re ready to get started, or to determine if you might need to seek further advice before beginning.
What is your current level of physical activity?
For this, use the “Rule of 3” to answer. Do you currently exercise for 3 or more days a week, for 30 minutes or more, for longer than 3 months? If the answer is yes, you are currently physical active. If the answer is no, you don’t participate in regular exercise, or do so to a lesser amount than outlined. Both answers are fine, and it’s important to recognize a starting point. If you’re currently not engaging in exercise, there might be a few more precautions to take, such as adjusting the intensity you start at, or talking with your doctor first to help create a routine. If you’re currently active, you have a little more room to continue or to engage in a higher volume of exercise.
Do you have a known disease such as a cardiovascular disease, a metabolic disease, or a renal disease? And/or do you have any sign/symptoms suggestive of heart disease?
If you have a known disease state of any cardiovascular, diabetes, or renal diseases, you’ll want to make sure it’s well managed and under control before starting to exercise or engaging in a new routine. Be sure to note when there is a change to side effects of your treatment and any signs or symptoms that may develop as you start your new routine. If you’re experiencing the classic warning signs of chest pain, racing heart rates, ankle swelling, shortness of breath with usual activities, and more, you’ll want to stop your routine and follow up with your doctor before starting to exercise again. If you begin experiencing new symptoms, they could be made worse by exercise, and these are the warning signs that you need to get things checked out before a major cardiovascular event happens.
What’s your desired exercise intensity?
This is an important question to ask because we don’t want to do too much too soon. That is a common mistake when starting a new exercise routine. We can often be excited or ready to start, but we end up exercising too hard and too much, only to pay for it later with increased soreness, an injury, or a cardiac event. It’s important to start low and go slow in length, intensity and progression of exercises.
This question relates back to the previous two. If you are active, with no disease or sign/symptoms of cardiovascular disease, then you may be able to start a more moderate intensity of exercise. If you are not currently regularly active, or dealing with disease states or signs/symptoms, it would be best to confirm with a doctor first and/or start at a low intensity routine.
Exercise can be a great way to deal with stress and positively influence health, but it’s always good to be sure you’re ready to exercise and are taking the necessary steps to minimize your risk of injury. So, if you’re unsure, you can ask yourself these questions, and you can always follow up with medical professionals to be sure you’re maximizing your safety.
Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more see the Adult Fitness website. More health tips are available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.