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Life is full of transitions and the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine is no exception. Although making the transition from participant to alumni can be challenging, there’s nothing more meaningful and empowering. I’ve been a fitness instructor for 41 cohorts of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program over the past ten years. Having seen both the challenges and the triumphs as people move from participant to alumni, I’ve identified three key areas that help make the transition smooth, successful, and rewarding: preparation, consistency in all four (equally weighted) lifestyle components, and becoming an alumni mentor or program volunteer.

If you want to maintain a successful exercise program, no matter what exercise you choose to do, consistency is the key.

Preparation

For participants of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine making the transition from the facilitated exercise sessions to exercising on your own can be daunting. This period can be full of questions and concerns: Where you will I continue to exercise? Can afford a gym membership or equipment at home? How can I continue to exercise consistently without the schedule in place?

To set yourself up for success, first determine where you will go to exercise and how you will maintain your routine. You may choose to join fellow Ornish members at a gym, get a personal trainer or simply walk outside. Having a plan in place will not only help you maintain consistency at the end of the program, but it will manage your fears and concerns around exercise during the transition.

You may ask your exercise physiologist to help you create a fitness routine, since he or she truly understands your likes and dislikes, abilities and difficulties. Having a good plan in place and utilizing fellow participants and staff to develop this plan will go a long way to set you up for success.

Consistency

If you want to maintain a successful exercise program, no matter what exercise you choose to do, consistency is the key. The end of the nine-week Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program doesn’t mark a time to rest, take a week off. Given how easy it can be to let the energy, motivation and discipline fluctuate, it’s critical to maintain consistency in both thought and effort.

Continuing to practice the program’s lifestyle prescription on a daily basis will naturally bolsters a strong exercise routine. The program’s four lifestyle pillars work synergistically to provide a roadmap to health and wellness. In making the transition to alumni, it’s empowering to recognize that you’ve gained the enduring  knowledge and experience necessary for achieving lifelong health. You’ve felt the power and proven to yourself that YOU CAN DO THIS! It’s like the motto says, “Just Do It” but in our case, “UnDo It” with consistency.

Become an Alumni Mentor or Volunteer

Once you reach alumni status, this is a wonderful time for you to help others follow in your path. I suggest making yourself available to new participants and cohorts as a mentor. Nothing will be as encouraging and meaningful to them as hearing the enthusiasm and success of previous participants. Your experiences, challenges and successes can be invaluable to them as they begin such a dynamic program.

A second way is to help current program participants flourish. You might volunteer your time to help promote the program. You could work at a health fair, speak at an Ornish open house or write a testimonial for Ornish Living. This provides valuable insight to participants, while also allowing you to remain engaged with and supported by your clinical delivery team and program site.

Often we find participants in the process of adjusting the program to meet their needs after they become alumni. Often they do this in an attempt to reclaim some of their old lifestyle. Having experienced the powerful difference of the Ornish lifestyle prescription, resist the urge to change or adjust the program. After completing the program, 87.9% of participants continue to get together regularly to support each other. The Ornish-certified locations offer the ‘Alumni Community’ monthly meeting space, support and robust online resources. The growing network of Ornish Alumni Communities allows participants to continue to thrive as they sustain this healthy lifestyle.

If you’ve participated in the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, what did you find helpful in making the transition to an alumnus?

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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