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Exercise: do you really need medical clearance?

Between fat bias and discrimination, sometimes seeing a doctor is a barrier for overweight and obese people. Use this checklist to know if it’s okay to start exercising without it.

DISCLAIMER: It’s always a good idea to get medical clearance before starting an exercise program. This article is for those who are unable – or unwilling – to get an appointment.

Nearly every person in a bigger body has their own story of weight-based bias at the doctor’s office. It could be anything: a too-small blood pressure cuff or medical gown, a wince from a triage nurse during a weigh-in, a negative comment from a physician, or as in McCord’s case, blaming every symptom on weight.

North Carolina Health News

It’s an unfortunate reality to have this obstacle towards getting healthy. Yet an estimated 24% of obese people commonly face some form of social stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings. This can cause both physical and psychological harm, as they may not receive adequate care. This can turn people off from making the change towards a healthier lifestyle.

READ> Fat Camp: The f word that 2021 won’t let you say

6 times you absolutely need to see a doctor before starting

If any of the following apply to you, seeing a doctor is a non-negotiable.

  • Heart disease
  • Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Arthritis
  • You’re being treated for cancer, or recently completed treatment
  • High blood pressure

Although negative attitudes from health providers are damaging, delayed diagnosis of conditions are even more so. Not all doctors are created equal and sometimes it takes bouncing around clinics to find one who you click with. It’s important that they are on board with your goals as well as values. If, for example, you prefer natural remedies then finding a physician who is more reserved about prescriptions will be a better fit for you. Feelings of shame about your body size can lead to far-reaching health implications, and mental illnesses.

How to start exercising, without seeing a doctor

Health experts agree that it’s okay to start gentle walking and stretching without clearance. Movement is a natural human activity, after all! Yet in saying that, it’s important to have clear definition (heart rate range) of low intensity guidelines. Messing with your heart and lungs is reckless.

Go to a doctor immediately if….

  • Exercise (or resting) gives you pain or discomfort in your chest, neck, jaw or arms.
  • You feel light headed, dizzy or faint even when exercising within the low intensity heart rate zone.
  • You get ankle swelling at night.
  • Your heart rate is uncomfortably high at rest.
  • Walking up the stairs, getting out of bed and mild exertion makes you short-of-breath.
  • Your lower leg hurts when you walk, but goes away when you rest.

Results from a medical evaluation are key indicators as to your ability to start exercise and your initial intensity. It will give you confidence to start making healthier choices, as your heart rate and blood pressure will be checked. This will give you safety guidelines to exercise with more variety and intensity.

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