PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) for Safe Exercise

Take the PAR-Q before exercise

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If you haven't been active recently, or are looking to add a new or more intense exercise to your current routine, the physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) can help you decide if you are ready to exercise safely, or if you might need a trip to your physician to make sure you don't push beyond your own limit.

PAR-Q Overview

The PAR-Q is a simple self-screening tool that can and should be used by anyone who is planning to start an exercise program and make it stick. It is typically used by fitness trainers or coaches to determine the safety or possible risk of exercising for an individual based on their health history, and current symptoms and risk factors. It also can help a trainer design an ideal exercise prescription for a client based on these results.

The PAR-Q was created by the British Columbia Ministry of Health and the Multidisciplinary Board on Exercise. This form has been adopted directly from the ACSM Standards and Guidelines for Health and Fitness Facilities. Although there are now a variety of PAR-Q questionnaires and other health self-directed screening assessments in use in various facilities, and on the web, the basic questions from the original questionnaire haven't changed a great deal.

The questions on the PAR-Q aim to uncover heart, circulatory, balance, medication, emotional, and joint problems that could make exercise difficult, or even dangerous for some people.

All the questions are designed to help uncover any potential health risks associated with exercise. The most serious potential risk of intense exercise is that of a heart attack or other sudden cardiac event in someone with undiagnosed heart conditions.

As useful as these questionnaires are, some underlying cardiac issues, particularly those in young athletes, can only safely be diagnosed by more invasive testing, including an electrocardiogram (ECG) and an echocardiogram. Still, the simple questionnaire has a place in screening most adults for obvious exercise safety risks.

Take the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire

Being physically active is very safe for most people. Some people, however, should check with their doctors before they increase their current level of activity. The PAR-Q has been designed to identify the small number of adults for whom physical activity may be inappropriate or those who should have medical advice concerning the type of activity most suitable for them.

Answer yes or no to the following questions:

  1. Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
  2. Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
  3. In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
  4. Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
  5. Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
  6. Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (for example, water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
  7. Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?

If you answered yes:

If you answered yes to one or more questions, are older than age 40 and have been inactive or are concerned about your health, consult a physician before taking a fitness test or substantially increasing your physical activity. You should ask for a medical clearance along with information about specific exercise limitations you may have.

In most cases, you will still be able to do any type of activity you want as long as you adhere to some guidelines.

If you answered no:

If you answered no to all the PAR-Q questions, you can be reasonably sure that you can exercise safely and have a low risk of having any medical complications from exercise. It is still important to start slowing and increase gradually. It may also be helpful to have a fitness assessment with a personal trainer or coach in order to determine where to begin.

When to delay the start of an exercise program:

  • If you are not feeling well because of a temporary illness, such as a cold or a fever, wait until you feel better to begin exercising.
  • If you are or may be pregnant, talk with your doctor before you start becoming more active.

Keep in mind, that if your health changes, so that you then answer "YES" to any of the above questions, tell your fitness or health professional, and ask whether you should change your physical activity plan.

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Article Sources

  1. Warburton DE, Jamnik VK, Bredin SS, et al. Evidence-based risk assessment and recommendations for physical activity clearance: an introduction. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2011;36 Suppl 1:S1-2. doi: 10.1139/h11-060

Additional Reading

  • Selecting and Effectively Using a Health/Fitness Facility. ACSM Fit Society Page. The American College of Sports Medicine Spring.