Do You Have To Talk To Your Doctor Before Starting A New Exercise Routine?

Photographed by Andi Elloway.
You're curious about trying that new workout class your friends won't shut up about. It sounds intense, but a different workout might be just what you need to get out of your exercise dry spell.
When you check the website, there's a disclaimer that catches your eye: "Consult your physician before starting a new fitness program." Sure, the class might be harder than you're used to, but do you actually have to call your doctor about it?
The reason you're often reminded to consult your doctor before exercising is to "ensure that you don't have any underlying medical issues that would negatively effect your routine or put your health at risk," says Corinne Croce, PT, DPT, SoulCycle's in-house physical therapist.
Your doctor knows details about your health that you might need to consider, and will be able to identify potential red flags that may come up during a given workout, Croce says. For example, if you're someone who has asthma, and you're really gung-ho about taking a cardio-heavy SoulCycle class, your doctor might have specific suggestions for how to make that work.
Your doctor isn't necessarily going to shut you down if you want to try something new, but they can determine what would be a good regimen based on your individual health needs, Croce says. In some cases, it's strongly encouraged to check in with your doctor, for example, if you're someone who has certain chronic health conditions: heart disease, lung disease, type 1 or 2 diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, or cancer among them, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you're being treated by a doctor for these conditions, then ideally they would have communicated these concerns to you — but it's always better to ask if you're not sure.
Beyond these specific health conditions, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests that you talk to your doctor before exercising if you're: over 35, you smoke (or recently quit smoking), are significantly higher weight (which, BTW, doesn't preclude you from working out), have high blood pressure or cholesterol, or are pre-diabetic. If it's just been a while since you've exercised for more than a half-hour, the ACSM also recommends checking in with your doctor.
Additionally, if you're pregnant or recently had a baby, the American Congress on Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends "a thorough clinical evaluation" to ensure there's not a medical reason why you can't exercise.
If it's too late, and you've already booked a class, then it's important to talk to the instructor or trainer beforehand, Croce says. "If you are questioning if something is important to tell your instructor or trainer, make sure to let them know — it's better to provide more information than less," she says. They should be able to tailor the class to your needs, or provide modifications when necessary.
And at the end of the day, it's your body, and nobody knows it better than you. "It's important to trust yourself and listen to your body," Croce says. Trainers are there to make suggestions about the exercises and workouts, but only a medical doctor can diagnose or treat an issue. And who knows? Your doc may know of a new cycling studio for you to check out.

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