How do you know if you are healthy enough physical activity?  While most people are healthy enough to start some form of physical activity you may need medical clearance.  As with many questions in the health field the answer is “it depends.”

But to make this a little more simple we’ll cover how we answer “Are you healthy enough for physical activity?” as fitness professionals.

Are you healthy enough for physical activity?

Cardiovascular Disease Risk

There is a set of risk factors for cardiovascular disease that determine if you should need a physician’s clearance to begin exercise.  These factors include:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Smoking
  • Blood pressure
  • Family history
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Cholesterol numbers
  • Pre-diabetes

Unfortunately, these factors are not great predictors of elevated risk for a cardiovascular event during exercise.  They also sent a lot of people to the doctor unnecessarily.  In other words, it had a very low barrier of entry to be considered at risk.

Plus, this clearance required having a stress test done.  Time consuming and costly.  This was a major barrier to people becoming active.

The American College of Sports Medicine recently acknowledged this in 2015 and has since changed some of the restrictions.  Basically, if you have known cardiovascular, metabolic, or renal disease it is recommended that you get clearance prior to beginning moderate to vigorous activity if inactive, but if you’ve been active keep going.

Plus, it’s no longer required to have a stress test as that should be up to your medical practitioner.  Now if symptoms start up, go see your doctor right away.

Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire

The Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) has been a staple in the fitness industry for years.  It is a pretty simple way determine if someone needs to get physician clearance prior to beginning exercise at moderate or vigorous intensity.

Here I’ll show you: (Yes or No questions).

  1. Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only perform physical activity recommended by a doctor?
  2. Do you feel pain in your chest when you perform physical activity?
  3. In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not performing any physical activity?
  4. Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
  5. Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
  6. Is your doctor currently prescribing any medication for your blood pressure or for a heart condition?
  7. Do you know of any other reason why you should not engage in physical activity?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions it is recommended that you gain physician clearance.  Which basically means that you talk to your doctor.  Depending on your situation or fitness professional you may have to get a form signed.  (This can often be done by fax or in some cases email.)

This is just a really simple way to determine if clearance is needed.  And please note that in most case Question #5 regarding joint problems can be worked around, plus arthritis can sometimes even feel better with regular physical activity.

Physical Activity and Pregnancy

There is a special form for pregnant women called the PARmed-X for Pregnancy.  This form is obviously designed with questions about the pregnancy and must be signed by a medical practitioner.  Most women are still health enough for at least moderate physical activity, but this is dependent on previous training status.


Hopefully, you can now determine if you are healthy enough for physical activity.  If you have any questions please share them in the comments below.  I’d be happy to answer them for you.

Photo source: Hotel de la Paix Geneve



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