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New Year?s Fitness Goals Should Start with a Trip to the Doc, Experts Say

The promise of a new year sparks the desire to get healthy-a goal Karin Richards, chair of the kinesiology program at University of the Sciences (USciences), says should begin with a physical exam at the doctor’s office. Richards believes the best preparation for exercise is to make sure an individual can safely engage in increased physical activity.

“Before embarking on a new and healthy lifestyle, it’s crucial to make sure that your body is ready and able for the challenge,” said Richards. “If you’ve been avoiding your doctor, or haven’t had the time to get a checkup, now is the time to make an appointment before you’re consumed by the last-minute holiday rush and you lose sight of your goal.”

A routine medical visit is a patient’s opportunity to ask health questions, discuss risk factors, and identify any potential health-related problems, said Joan F. Ward, MS, PA-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at USciences. Although doctors tend to perform physical exams differently, they generally include a discussion of the patient’s family health history, a blood pressure screening, and a series of brief exams of the heart, lungs, head and neck, stomach, muscle reflexes, and skin.

Ward and Richards agree that a physical exam can provide a patient with valuable information to share with a fitness professional to help create the best individualized program that focuses on his or her particular needs. Similarly, the exam can also help identify any potential obstacles or health risks an individual may encounter with moderate to vigorous activity.

Once the physical is complete, Richards said there are still precautions to follow to ensure safe and optimal fitness results. For instance, before committing to an exercise specialist or personal trainer, Richards said to make sure that he or she holds a current certification from a reputable and nationally accredited organization, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, or National Strength and Conditioning Association, as well as a current CPR certification.

This article was adapted from information provided by USciences.