Newswise — The promise of a new year sparks the desire to get healthy – a goal Karin Richards, chair of the kinesiology program at University of the Sciences, says should begin with a physical exam at the doctor’s office. After all, Richards believes the best preparation for exercise is making sure an individual can safely engage in increased physical activity.

“Before embarking on a new and healthy lifestyle, it’s crucial to make sure that your body is ready and able for the challenge,” said Richards. “If you’ve been avoiding your doctor, or haven’t had the time to get a check-up, now is the time to make an appointment before you’re consumed by the last-minute holiday rush and you lose sight of your goal.”

A routine medical visit is a patient’s opportunity to ask health questions, discuss risk factors, and identify any potential health-related problems, said Joan F. Ward, MS, PA-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at USciences. Although doctors tend to perform physical exams differently, they generally all include a discussion of the patient’s family health history, a blood pressure screening, and a series of brief exams of the heart, lungs, head and neck, stomach, muscle reflexes, and skin.

Ward and Richards agree that a physical exam can provide a patient with valuable information to share with a fitness professional to help create the best individualized program that focuses on his or her particular needs. Similarly, the exam can also help identify any potential obstacles or health risks an individual may encounter with moderate to vigorous activity.

A recent survey by The Physicians Foundation found that more than 115,000 doctors across the country rely on the work of physician assistants to meet the high demand for healthcare. Because many doctor’s offices have physician assistants on staff, patients are able to schedule appointments for physicals without having to wait for weeks or even months, said Ward.

"As a result of the Affordable Care Act and aging baby boomers, family doctors are seeing a pretty significant increase in requests for appointments from new and existing patients,” said Ward. “Physician assistants have played a key role in helping patients gain access to health care in a timely manner.”

Once the physical is complete, Richards said there are still precautions to follow to ensure safe and optimal fitness results. For instance, before committing to an exercise specialist or personal trainer, Richards said to make sure that he or she holds a current certification from a reputable and nationally accredited organization, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, or National Strength and Conditioning Association; as well as a current CPR certification.

Richards and Ward have written and spoken extensively on the topics of health and wellness. Richards has been used as a resource for numerous print, broadcast, and web stories as a health expert; for assistance in making arrangements to interview her, contact Lauren Whetzel ([email protected], 215.596.8864) or Brian Kirschner ([email protected], 215.895.1186).

At University of the Sciences, students embark on a challenging learning experience in a proving ground for successful professionals in the science and healthcare-related fields. A private institution dedicated to education, research, and service, and distinguished as the North America’s first college of pharmacy, the University has produced leaders in the science and healthcare marketplaces since its founding in 1821. Students in USciences’ four colleges learn to excel in scientific analysis and to apply their skills to improving healthcare in the lives of people worldwide through such disciplines as pharmacy, biology, chemistry, psychology, physics, physical therapy, healthcare business, and health policy. For more information, visit or follow @USciences on Twitter.