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The four components of the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease work like the foundation of a building. We have the best chance of building a strong foundation in health and wellness when we work with all four areas. The four areas support and balance one another, and without one area our health may not reach its full potential.

The relationship between exercise and nutrition is one of the most important.

Fitness and Nutrition

The relationship between exercise and nutrition is one of the most important. Nutrition is the fuel for everything we do. We should take care to make the right nutritional choices that will fuel our body in the best possible way. As Dr. Ornish often says, “What you include is as important as what you exclude.” Making healthy choices will pay off in cleaner and more efficient fuel for our body. The science behind the Ornish program’s nutrition plan is clear and will work well for any level of exercise. Balancing our diet and exercise routine will also help us in weight maintenance and weight loss by burning off excess calories, and for people with diabetes help to maintain their blood glucose.

Fitness and Stress Management

The connection between exercise and stress management is often misunderstood or not acknowledged. As a lifelong exerciser, I’ve come to appreciate the relationship between exercise and stress management. Exercise on its own has a wonderful ability to minimize stress. How hard is it to maintain frustration, anger or other stress reactions after a good workout? It’s difficult because we have worked off some of the stressful energy, changed our body chemistry and given ourselves a break from the stress.

Exercise also works to bring us into the present moment. We become more focused on what we are doing rather than on “other “ things. We become more aware of how we feel as opposed to what we think. We come into our body as opposed to moving away from it and into our thoughts. Feeling our muscles work and body move are gentle reminders to move inward rather than outward. Exercise also helps to improve flexibility, breathing, balance and focus.

During stress management practice, we also connect with our joints, muscles and physically sensations. These are feelings we often don’t take the time to experience in our fast-paced lives. With stress management, especially with yoga postures, we work on flexibility and movement that will not only reduce stress and anxiety but also strengthen our body. These similar and shared benefits help stress management and exercise to support one another.

Fitness and Love and Support

The last component of the Ornish program is love, support and community. For anyone who has taught or participated in the Ornish program we are familiar with saying that this component is the glue that holds everything together. Love, support and community will reach into the other three areas with ease if we let it. Both our fitness practice and stress management practice will benefit from the energy and support of the group, and we know that often the best meals are shared with close friends or loved ones. These social settings, if positive and supportive, reinforce our positive choices and help to sustain us during the most difficult of times. They help us to gain the awareness that we are not alone on our journey towards health and wellness. Seeing others share similar successes and failures is positive for us to experience.

How has each part of the Ornish program helped you improve your fitness routine?

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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