Consult Your Doctor Before Exercising. A Good Idea?

Taking your exercise advice from someone who doesn't exercise? How to decide if your doctor is the right person to consult with before beginning an exercise program.

You hear it all the time: "Consult with a physician before beginning an exercise routine."  It's the smart thing to do. You are doing your diligence to consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, but the only question is; does your physician really understand what it means to exercise?

Chiropractors, medical doctors, and physical therapists are great resources for a variety of ailments. The attend years of schooling to gain avast education regarding their field of study so that you can have piece of mind when soliciting their advice. Unfortunately, in those years of schooling, it is rare that these professionals are educated properly on exercise technique. Doctors for the most part are not exercise physiologists. It is important to choose carefully which professional's advice you seek when considering an exercise program as they do not all have the necessary experience to give you good, specific, advice.

The first thing to consider about your physician of choice is; does he/she exercise? If the person with whom you are consulting foes not exercise regularly, how are they going to relate to you when questions arise regarding your workouts? Understanding the body's physical response to exercise - something doctor's are proficient in - is one thing, to understand the experience as an active participant is something very different.  

It is okay to ask your doctor "Do you exercise regularly?," and to have a follow-up question: "What is your routine like, ready to go?" Tell your doctor "I would like to start exercising and I need someone with exercise knowledge and experience to provide you with the proper advice as I progress my workout routine." This statement will allow a doctor who does not have proper qualifications regarding exercise with an out. It is an opportunity for the doctor to make a recommendation of someone else, someone more fitness qualified to help you with your exercise progression. If your doctor is well versed in exercise, he or she will have no problem helping you with this request. A responsible doctor without experience in the exercise world will make the proper referral for you.

Another way to give your doctor the opportunity to make a referral if he or she is not exercise savvy is to let them know that it is important to you to understand how to get results from exercise in order for you to get them. Ask your doctor to explain to you the "why" of what you plan to do, so that you can decide for yourself on the "how." Again, there are thousands of good doctors out there who simply do not study exercise, this will give one of them an opportunity to do what a good doctor does, and refer our when necessary.

Exercise is about much more than just lifting weights and getting your heart rate up. It is imperative that you practice proper form while performing various movements. It is also important that you do not recklessly accumulate a high volume of work on beginning a routine as this can lead to severe discomfort and, in extreme cases, even death.  

If you have met with your doctor and are dissatisfied with the response you got regarding beginning a workout routine, you still have many options. The easiest option is to walk into your gym (if you belong to one) and work out lightly on the cardio equipment while carefully watching the trainers on the floor. If you see someone training a client who appears engaged in their client, and is happy and friendly, when that trainer is finished training his or her client, walk over and ask the trainer some questions. While I always tell people personal training is the way to go, I also understand it can get prohibitively expensive. Advice on the floor from a good trainer is free. A trainer who isn't willing to help you out with some simple question and answer for free on the floor - provided he or she is not with a client at the time - is a trainer who does not deserve your business.

You can always look things up online. My favorite sites to read musing exercise articles are www.t-nation.com, www.ptonthenet.com, and of course, www.crossfit.com.

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of who you should consult when considering a lifestyle change towards fitness. You have made a great decision and I commend you on it. Now protect yourself before you start. Ask the right questions to the right people; it will help you set goals and form expectations. Remember, if it was easy, we would all be fit. You are doing the right thing by starting an exercise program. Go get the proper advice and start kickin' ass!

If you have any questions please feel free to comment below or send me an email at drsean@thrivelongbeach.com  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

paz5559 April 30, 2012 at 06:19 PM
You clearly don't know what you don't know, but have a platform to spew misinformation like the above piece. An overweight physician is still far better qualified to determine if a patient can exercise safely, regardless if you approve of their personal workout routine. Afterall, by your logic, only female OB's should treat pregnant women. Only cardiologists who have had heart attacks should treat heart patients. Orthopaedists who haven't broken their own hip shouldn't be the ones chosen to fix grandma's. Heck, only chiropractors with bad backs should manipulate others!
paz5559 April 30, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Physicians are trained to evaluate and treat patent with a wide range of diseases. Good physicians read the literature, and are thus aware of cutting edge treatments. First hand knowledge is a nice bonus, but you should select a physician for their insight, knowledge, and expertise. "Consult your doctor before exercising" means more than just what's the best exercise routine. It means can a cardiac patient or an asthmatic use the elliptical safely. It means what are the limitations a total knee patient has with regard to running and squats. What blood sugar range can a diabetic safely exercise at. Neither a chiropractor nor a trainer is qualified to render such advice. Suggesting otherwise is irresponsible, and reprehensible.
Dr.Sean Pastuch April 30, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Paz I would agree with you. Suggesting that a chiropractor or a trainer is qualified to suggest what blood sugar range a specific diabetic should stay in during exercise would be irresponsible. I also agree that "consult before exercising" means more than just what the best exercise routine is. However, it also includes what the best exercise routine is. No where in my piece did I suggest that you should not consult with your physician. I merely gave people the opportunity to ask their physicians educated questions regarding not just permission to, but also how to exercise most effectively.
Dr.Sean Pastuch April 30, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I'm a big proponent of "it's not what you look like, it's what you know". While over weight MD's might know just as much about exercise as their slimmer counter parts, it's in the patient's best interest to be sure that this is the case. I have referred to and received referrals from various health professionals from neurologists, to cardiologists, to orthopedists. The reason they refer to me is because I respect my scope. I'm sorry if you mistook my writing as a warning not to discuss fitness with your medical doctor, that was not my intention. My intention is to give people specific, comprehensive methods to help both themselves and their physicians decide what he best course of action is for them regarding exercise. Many health professionals will tell you that exercise is not their forte. It's in this case that the patient is better suited seeking alternative advice


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