Pre-exercise screening is used to identify people who may have medical conditions which put them at a higher risk of an adverse event during physical activity/exercise. It’s a filter or ‘safety net’ to help determine if the potential benefits of exercise outweigh the risks for an individual.

It is irrefutable that across the population the health benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks many fold. However, it is also recognised that for some individuals there may be an unacceptably high acute risk associated with starting a physical activity program or substantially increasing their level of activity.

While the overall risk of a cardiovascular or cerebrovascular event (for example, heart attack, stroke or sudden death) increases during physical activity in the acute phase, there is a protective effect over the longer term for those who regularly exercise. The main cause of these specific adverse events in adults is prior pathologies often related to atherosclerotic arterial disease. Regular physical activity reduces the build-up of fatty plaques that lead to atherosclerotic disease as well as increasing blood vessel compliance, capillary density and myocardial size and strength. There are other acute problems that may occur in some people who have other pathologies. These are typically related to the respiratory and metabolic systems but may occasionally involve other physiological systems. If health and fitness professionals can easily gather more information about the state of health or disease of a person, it might help to reduce the possibility of a problem occurring during exercise. There are no guarantees that an adverse event might or might not occur. However, this prior knowledge will assist in appropriate exercise prescription and can significantly reduce the probability of serious injury or life- threatening incidences.

The compulsory part of the pre-exercise screening consists of general questions to determine if a person has any major or uncontrolled cardiovascular, metabolic and respiratory diseases, signs and symptoms of disease, or other medical issues that represent a substantial risk when beginning or upgrading their physical activity patterns.