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Risk Factors and Health History

Risk Factor Assessment

It is important to assess your risk factors before participating in an exercise program. Even though exercise is healthy, risks do exist. Exercise places a certain amount of stress on physiological systems, particularly the cardiovascular system. Some individuals may be at more risk of a cardiac event than others. You can use the ACSM Risk Stratification Screening Questionnaire to determine your risk score.

How many risk factors do you have? What are they? Here is a list of what needs to be taken into account before exercising at a moderate or vigorous intensity. If you currently do not participate in regular exercise (defined as 30 minutes, 3 times a week, for the past 3 months) and you have two or more risk factors listed below, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you receive clearance from your doctor before partaking in moderate to vigorous intensity exercise. You may want to confirm with your physician that it is safe for you to exercise.

Review each risk factor listed below. Does it apply to you? Yes or No…
Risk Factor and Explanation


    • For men, are you equal to or older than 45 years?
      For women, are you equal to or older than 55 years?

Family history

    • Is there a history of heart attack or cardiac death before the age of 55 in your biological father or brother, or before the age of 65 in your biological mother or sister?

Cigarette smoking

    • Do you currently smoke or have you quit within the past 6 months? Are you exposed to environmental tobacco smoke on a regular basis?

Sedentary lifestyle (physical inactivity)

    • Are you meeting the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of vigorous) physical activity per week?


    • Is your BMI greater than 30 or your waist girth larger than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women?

High blood pressure

    • Is your blood pressure equal to or higher than 130 / 80 or are you on anti-hypertensive medication?

High cholesterol

    • Is your LDL equal to or greater than 130? Or your HDL less than 40? Is your total cholesterol at or above 200?

High fasting plasma glucose levels

    • Is your fasting glucose equal to or greater than 100 or do you have impaired glucose tolerance where a two hour oral glucose tolerance test value is equal to or greater than 140 but less than 200?

NOT a Risk Factor: High HDL cholesterol

    • If your HDL is equal to or greater than 60, this is great and can actually act as a counter to one of the risk factors listed above.


A Guide to Physical Fitness Copyright © by Jen Hilker. All Rights Reserved.

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