The Best (And Worst) Time Of Year To Schedule Your Annual Physical

Regular physical exams are a great way to keep track of your overall well-being, catch any possible issues early on, and make sure you're on track to meet your health goals. Even if you feel perfectly healthy, there are compelling reasons to visit your primary care doctor at least once a year. These annual check-ups create a health baseline and strengthen the patient-physician relationship, a vital element in maximizing your wellness (per Duke Health). Many health insurance plans also offer incentives for participating in these exams (per HealthInsurance.org), such as discounts on premiums.

By making preventive healthcare a priority, you can enjoy a healthy and happy life with confidence. However, the timing of these appointments is crucial in determining your overall experience and the care you receive. During peak seasons, the waiting room can get overcrowded, and appointment delays may happen. Also, timing your physical examination could impact your health insurance benefits.

Pros and cons of scheduling a physical during different seasons

The timing of your annual physical exam can affect your experience and quality of care. For example, spring is ideal for a comfortable check-up and early allergy testing. However, it's also a popular time for sports physicals, so you might need to book your appointment well ahead of time. And if you struggle with allergies, peak allergy season might make you miserable during your appointment.

While summer can offer greater flexibility in scheduling with longer days and vacation periods, it can also bring some scheduling challenges due to overlapping vacation plans. Additionally, the hot summer weather may pose some discomfort during your visit. Fall weather is typically mild and stable, and you can get flu shots and COVID boosters while you're there to stay protected during the upcoming season. However, making an appointment during the busy back-to-school season can be hectic.

Dr. Nathan Goodyear, Medical Director of Brio-Medical, says that despite the typically poor habits and excess of the holiday season, January is the best time for an annual physical. "What month provides more motivation, beginnings, opportunities, possibilities to focus on wellness and/or healing for the coming year than the beginning of the year?" Dr. Goodyear told Health Map exclusively, adding, "It is the opportunity for another beginning."

Considerations for choosing the right time

When scheduling your yearly physical, it's important to pick the right time. While everyone's needs differ, it's generally a good idea to avoid scheduling it during December. This is because more people tend to be sick during this time, which increases the risk of catching something while waiting in the waiting room. Plus, winter weather can make it tricky to keep your appointment. 

To remember to get your physical, consider scheduling it around your birthday. "Think of your birth month as a checkpoint for not just celebrating another year of life, but also for tuning up your body—like a health maintenance month," Benjamin Jack, MD, Founder of Duration Health, said exclusively to Health Map. "While you're at it, it's a smart move to make sure you're well-equipped with a plan for any health surprises the coming year may bring. If your birthday falls in the winter months, consider touching base with your doctor in the late spring or early summer instead. That way, you beat the end-of-year rush when everyone's scrambling to use their insurance and flu season's in full swing."

Think about your personal health goals, insurance benefits, and practical considerations. By taking these factors into account, you can make a well-informed decision about the best time for your yearly check-up.