Ottawa paramedics are warning people to ease into any exercise regimen they begin as part of a New Year's resolution.

Paramedics typically see a spike in heart attacks at fitness centres every new year, according to spokesman J.P.Trottier.

"They hit the treadmills, they hit the stair climbers, and if they haven't been to the gym in several months and they haven't had an assessment from their physician prior to going in, some people do go into cardiac arrest," said Trottier.

Paramedics say it's often people who push themselves to the extreme and try to do too much too soon.

Marta Wein, a fitness and recreation administrator with Carleton Athletics, recommends consulting with a personal trainer or gym staff before jump-starting any new workout routine.

"Whatever you did at Christmas you can't undo that in a day. So take your time and make it a step by step process so that you keep at it," said Wein.

If it's been a while, see a doctor

If you are unsure of your medical history, health experts recommend consulting a physician.

But as Cumberland councillor Stephen Blais knows first hand, even when you take the necessary precautions, things can still go wrong.

Blais was five months into a fitness regimen with the aid of a trainer when he collapsed of a heart attack last January.

He was leaving his gym in Orleans when he collapsed and his heart stopped for an hour.

"I was literally at the last minute [when] my heart came back on. It's both scary and inspiring at the same time. It was just a physically and emotionally tough thing to recover from," said Blais.

Blais later learned he had a genetic predisposition that made him more likely to suffer the incident, one that had been previously undetected.

He returned to work in May and has been training in his basement to get back his muscle strength, but he's careful not push himself too hard.

His new fitness goal is to play a full round of golf in the spring without being completely exhausted.

"Physically there's still a ways to go," he said.