There are no significant differences between the intensive programs and other exercise programs for a healthy heart. You should always make exercise part of the other healthy changes you are making in your life, such as eating a low-fat diet. You also need to keep exercising to see the benefits.
The participants in Dr. Ornish's program walked for their exercise because walking provides many health benefits with very little risk of injury or sudden cardiac death. To follow the same exercise program they did, do the following.
- Walk for 30 minutes a day or 1 hour every other day.
- You can do this in whatever blocks of time you wish. You can do three 10-minute walks or two 15-minute walks. Or you can do 30 minutes at a time and walk once a day.
- Gradually increase the duration of your walks. You might increase the time by 5 minutes every 1 or 2 weeks.
- Walk at a pace that you consider to be a fairly light to somewhat hard. Gradually increase your intensity, but keep in mind that you should enjoy the walk and not feel pain.
Dr. Ornish also emphasizes these points about exercise.
- It is more important to exercise consistently rather than with great intensity.
- If you choose to exercise more, do it because you enjoy it.
- Thirty minutes a day is the minimum amount of exercise recommended, but you should not exercise so much that you cause overuse injuries.
Following an intensive exercise program is only one component of the intensive lifestyle changes that are recommended by experts such as Dr. Ornish to reverse the effects of heart disease. The other components of an intensive lifestyle program include eating a very-low-fat vegetarian diet, managing stress, stopping smoking, and getting support from others. To gain benefits similar to those realized by those who participated in Dr. Ornish's studies, you must take action on all the components.