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Keeping active is important if you want to lead a healthy lifestyle. That means adding exercise to your daily or weekly routine. If you haven’t been active in some time, you may want to consider checking with your doctor before you take up any type of exercise program.

The obvious reason for talking with a health professional in this situation is to avoid injury. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle for any significant period of time, you can’t simply jump into strenuous physical activity. You could break a bone, pull ligaments or suffer some other type of injury.

The worst case scenario is you could give yourself a heart attack. Your heart conditions itself to work as hard as you make it. So if you begin exercising after a long break, your heart is forced to quickly move from very little activity to forcing blood throughout your body at a very high rate. This drastic change in what you demand from your ticker could cause a serious cardiovascular problem.

An extended absence from physical activity is not the only reason you may want to get your doctor’s approval before beginning exercise. The Mayo Clinic urges you to speak with your physician before taking up exercise if any of the following situations apply.

  • You have heart disease.
  • Your family has a history of heart problems.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You suffer from arthritis.
  • You have a kidney disease.

If you are over 40 years of age, you may consider seeing a healthcare professional before taking up regular exercise as well. As you age, your body naturally loses bone density, muscle mass, flexibility and strength. That is why it is so important to stay physically active when you are older.

However, those same naturally occurring physical characteristics are also the reason you should get a checkup before you begin an exercise routine. The American College of Sports Medicine also suggests seeing a doctor “before engaging in vigorous exercise” if 2 or more of the following situations apply.

  • You are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 55.
  • You smoke regularly, or have within the past 6 months.
  • You have not exercised 3 days a week, at least 30 minutes each day, for over 3 months.
  • You are obese or overweight.
  • You have a high cholesterol level or high blood pressure.

When should you check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program? The tips above will help you decide whether you should consult your physician or not, but generally, one rule definitely applies – “When in doubt, check it out.” If you are unsure whether you should talk to a doctor in advance of exercising, it is always a good idea to go ahead and get a checkup.