Inability to Exercise (Exercise Intolerance): Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 10/9/2020

The inability to exercise is sometimes medically referred to as exercise intolerance. The inability to tolerate exercise can be a reflection of many different kinds of medical conditions, including respiratory problems, heart or circulatory problems, injury or musculoskeletal problems, or any number of a wider variety of medical conditions. It is also possible for emotional or mental disorders, such as depression, to interfere with the ability to exercise, or for the inability to exercise to be related to a combination of general physical problems.

The causes listed here are only examples of the many conditions that may lead to an inability to exercise. Associated symptoms can include

  • muscle or joint pain when exercising,
  • becoming quickly fatigued or out of breath, or
  • balance problems.

Other causes of inability to exercise (exercise intolerance)


In the U.S., 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. See Answer

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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.