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Exercise 1: checking it's safe to start

I've talked a lot on this blog about the tremendously worthwhile gains we can make for our physical health by exercising regularly.  See for example the posts "Does healthy lifestyle really make a difference?" and "Common sense isn't common".  Now the recent national depression guidelines "Updated NICE guidelines on treating depression" and "SIGN guidance on non-pharmaceutical management of depression" underline the importance of exercise for psychological health too.

The reality though is that many health professionals - particularly mental health professionals - are not well equipped to give good exercise advice.  This post and three subsequent posts on exercise aim to provide excellent up to date resources on safety, quantity, type and availability of exercise.  Appropriately this short first post looks at safety issues.

The vast majority of people can exercise perfectly safely, and the overall physical and psychological gains achievable are much greater than any likely costs.  However, especially if one hasn't been exercising for some time, the "Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q)" is a useful brief 7 item screen (looking particularly at heart, balance & joint issues) available from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.  They write: "If you are planning to become much more physically active than you are now, start by answering the seven questions ... If you are between the ages of 15 and 69, the PAR-Q will tell you if you should check with your doctor before you start. If you are over 69 years of age, and you are not used to being very active, check with your doctor." 

The short, associated, general "Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination (PARmed-X)" and more specific "Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination for Pregnancy (PARmed-X for Pregnancy)" provide further helpful advice for health professionals assessing patients' exercise readiness, and the downloads may also be interesting for general readers.


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