woman tying their shoe

Is Your Body Ready to Hit the Gym?

December 11, 2023
Adam Makkawi, DO, Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUIMC

Adam Makkawi, DO, Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUIMC

You're overweight. You're under-muscled. You're thinking about heart health. You’re recovering from an injury. You lost a bet. There are endless reasons to start going to the gym, but are you physically ready?

We asked family medicine provider, Adam Makkawi, DO, how to determine if you’re ready for the gym. Here’s what he said.

If someone has never been to a gym before, or it’s been a while, what should they do—for their health—before going to a gym?

There are a few things to keep in mind before you take the big step and sign up for a gym membership.

  1. Consult with a healthcare professional: If you have any underlying health conditions or concerns, get advice, and know you are fully cleared for physical activity.
  2. Set realistic goals: Break up long-term fitness goals into smaller, achievable milestones to help stay motivated.
  3. Educate Yourself:  Watch tutorial videos, read fitness articles, and consider working with a personal trainer to get familiar with gym equipment and techniques (and design a personalized workout plan).
  4. Warm up and cool down: warm up muscles with dynamic stretches or light cardio activity and cool down with static stretches to enhance flexibility and help prevent post-exercise muscle soreness.

Should you see a doctor before going to the gym?

Yes. Consulting with a health care professional before starting any new exercise regimen, including going to the gym, is especially important if you have pre-existing health conditions, injuries, or if you have not been physically active for an extended period.

A healthcare professional can evaluate your health status, provide personalized advice, and ensure you are cleared for physical activity. They can also offer guidance on specific exercises or modifications that may be necessary based on your individual circumstances.

What should you eat before going to the gym?

Choosing the right pre-workout meal or snack can provide the fuel your body needs for an effective gym session.

  • Eat your pre-workout meal or snack 1-2 hours before exercising.
  • Prioritize complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods provide sustained energy and help replenish glycogen stores in your muscles
  • Include a moderate amount of protein in your pre-workout meal or snack to help with muscle repair and growth. Greek yogurt, a protein smoothie, or a handful of nuts are good protein sources.
  • Do not forget to hydrate! Drink water before your workout to ensure proper hydration, as it is essential for optimal performance.

Nutritional needs and preferences vary. What’s good for someone else might not be good for you. Experiment with different foods to see what works best for your body.

How much exercise do you actually need on a daily basis?

The frequency of gym trips—and the amount of exercise needed daily—varies depending on individual goals, fitness levels, and schedules. Do not compare yourself to anyone else.

It is also important to give your body time to rest and recover. Get at least 1 to 2 days of rest per week to prevent overtraining and to reduce the risk of injury.

What’s the question every patient asks you about going to the gym/exercising?

Without a doubt, it is “Am I too old to go to the gym?”

Absolutely not. Age is not a barrier to going to the gym or engaging in physical activity. In fact, exercise and strength training is incredibly beneficial for individuals of all ages. Frequent exercise helps to maintain muscle strength, promote bone health, enhance cardiovascular health, and boost mood and mental well-being.

Do you go to the gym personally?

Yes! Exercising regularly is beneficial for physical health and mental well-being. But note that while going to the gym can be an effective way to stay fit, exercise can be done in various forms and settings. It is essential to find activities that you enjoy and fit into your lifestyle, ensuring a sustainable and enjoyable fitness journey.


Adam Makkawi, DO, is a family medicine physician at Columbia Primary Care and an assistant professor of medicine at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.