If you haven't been exercising for a long period, it's a good idea to get a health check from your general practitioner (GP) before your start an exercise program. Here are some of the things they may check before giving you the go ahead to start working out. 

Lung capacity

If you have any restriction on your ability to breathe under pressure, including asthma, your doctor may take the opportunity of your pre-exercise health check to check your lung capacity and adjust any lung medication. You may be advised to take some extra doses before each exercise session to ensure that you can breathe throughout your exercise. Generally, exercise is considered useful for asthmatics as it helps to improve the tone of the lung and related breathing muscles.  

Heart heath and capacity

If you have not exercised in a while, you may have poor heart conditions. Exercising too hard too quickly can lead to heart problems, including in the most extreme cases heart attacks. This is even more likely when you are a very overweight. Your doctor may suggest that you monitor your heart rate while exercising and rest if your heart rate exceeds threshold rates suggested by your age, gender and physical conditions. 

In many cases, it can also be a good idea to make other changes such as limiting sodium to further help your heart condition. Again regular exercise is generally a good idea for people with poor heart condition, but you may need to adjust the intensity to ensure that the exercise is safe for your body. 


If you are very overweight, doing high intensity exercise such as running or high impact aerobics can be hard on your joints. Your doctor can help to weigh you and help you to work out an exercise regime that might initially have a lower intensity. As you commence exercise you may lose fat and gain muscle, leading to less pressure on your joints. 

Bone mass

If you have been very sedentary you may have bone mass that is lower than normal. Low bone mass can put you at a high risk of fractures if you fall. Doctors may suggest you have bone density scans if they suspect this is an issue. They may also suggest you start with lower impact exercises such as water-based exercise. Over time, weight-bearing exercise is often useful to build bone mass, so weight training can be a great idea if you do have low bone mass.