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Is Exercise OK for Me?

Physical activity may help you manage your condition.

man and woman on golf course

If you have a chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, exercise may be beneficial to you. In fact, with your doctor's permission, exercise may help benefit you in many ways. Don't let a health problem prevent you from being active.

Physical activity may help:

  • Make you stronger. Increasing your strength can help with daily activities such as carrying your groceries, picking up your grandchildren or climbing stairs.
  • Increase flexibility and endurance. Regular physical activity can help you get around easier and participate more fully in life.
  • Improve your mood. Living with a chronic disease can lead to depression. Physical activity may help fight depression.

Ask your doctor

Before you start or increase your physical activity, check with your doctor. Exercise is good for most people, but you should make sure it’s safe for you. Discuss which activities may be better for you, considering your condition.

Check with your doctor to learn what signs and symptoms may mean your condition is not well managed. And find out what to do if you have any of these while you are exercising. Also, ask your doctor how active you should be and if there are any specific activities you should avoid.

A certified fitness professional can also help you set goals and design an appropriate exercise program.

Getting started

Make physical activity a part of your daily life. Walking, gardening, golfing, dancing or even cleaning all count as physical activity.

Start slowly so you don't injure yourself or get discouraged. Choose an activity you enjoy. You might need to start with exercise every other day at first and build up from there. If you can only be active for 10 or 15 minutes, start there. Being active for 10 minutes three times a day is just as good as being active for 30 minutes at a time. Some kind of activity is better than doing nothing at all.

The goal for most adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two days or more of strength training each week. However, if you have health conditions that prevent you from reaching that goal, with your doctor’s help, set goals that meet your abilities. Try to avoid being inactive, especially for long periods of time. All individuals are encouraged to reduce periods of inactivity to no more than 90 minutes at a time.

However you choose to build activity into your day, it can be beneficial. As you get more physically fit, you gradually build endurance over time.

Small steps can add up

Try to do a combination of different exercises: aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance. If you can’t meet the 150-minute weekly goal for aerobic activity, do what you can. Note that your doctor may suggest you work out for a shorter amount of time.

Aerobic activity increases your oxygen use and helps your heart and lungs work better. Walking, swimming and biking are examples of aerobic activity.

With your doctor’s ok, add strength training, also known as resistance or weight training, a couple of days a week. This may be as simple as lifting light weights or canned foods, or using a resistance band. Strengthening exercises help improve muscle and bone strength.

Improving flexibility and balance are also important as this type of activity may help prevent falls and improve your range of motion. Try gentle stretches after warming up your muscles or try tai chi or yoga.

How to include activity in your daily life?

Here are some good ways to get active:

  • Walking. All you need are shoes and a place to walk.
  • Exercise classes. A fitness class can motivate you, and you can also meet old friends or make new ones.
  • Aquatic exercises. Exercising in the water adds buoyance and reduces stress on the joints.
  • Yoga. Doing yoga covers three types of exercise: strength, balance and flexibility.
  • Working around the house. You can rake, carry groceries or mow the lawn — anything that gets you moving.
  • Lifting weights. Using hand-held and ankle weights builds strength.

By Mary Armstrong, Contributing Writer

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans. Accessed: October 23, 2015.
National Institute on Aging. Exercise & physical activity: Your everyday guide from the National Institute on Aging. Accessed: October 23, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity and health. Accessed: October 23, 2015.

Last Updated: October 26, 2015