Exercise plays a significant role in disease prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, physical activity helps to reduce individuals’ risk of chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, various types of cancer, and dementia.
As vital as exercise is to a healthy lifestyle, many people simply are not getting enough of it. A recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics found that only about 23 percent of American adults between the ages of 18 and 64 are meeting the benchmarks for physical activity guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And that problem is not unique to the United States. A study from Statistics Canada found that only about 17 percent of adults in Canada were meeting the minimum guidelines for weekly physical activity established by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.
Such figures illustrate the emphasis that many adults must place on getting more physical activity. But returning to physical activity after a long layoff or becoming physically active for the first time are not as simple as lacing up a pair of running shoes and hitting the road. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine notes the importance of pre-participation health screening for adults about to engage in physical activity after a period of inactivity.
What is a pre-participation health screening?
A pre-participation health screening is an examination conducted by a physician that looks for particular issues that may interfere with one’s ability to exercise. Doctors will likely ask patients about their medical histories and their family histories as well, as each of these factors can be used to determine whether a person is ready for physical activity or any restrictions need to be put in place to protect them.
What happens after a pre-participation health screening?
Once a physician conducts a health screening, he or she will conclude if an individual can exercise and how much he or she can exercise. Adults who are cleared to exercise but have never been physically active or have gone years without exercising will likely be advised to take it slowly at first. Doctors may provide specific exercise recommendations or refer patients to a sports medicine professional who can help them devise an appropriate workout regimen. Doctors also may recommend follow-up appointments to track patients’ progress. Such appointments can be invaluable, as they can help people whose overall health has improved after limited exercise ramp up the intensity of their workouts, which can help them continue on the course to a healthier life. However, it’s important that people consult their physicians before increasing the intensity of their workouts. A second screening might even be worthwhile, helping people and their physicians alter workout regimens that reflect their improved overall health.