The British Heart Foundation and the Chest, Heart and Stroke Association have allocated funds to develop cardiac rehabilitation programmes. We have recently completed and now evaluate an exercise-based rehabilitation course reinforced with advice about return to normal activity for 110 patients who had suffered acute myocardial infarction. Patients admitted to the Plymouth cardiac care unit were randomised into groups: a control group to receive standard hospital care, and a rehabilitation group who, in addition, received an exercise programme reinforced with advice. Patients were assessed at entry to the study and at intervals thereafter. Assessment was by questionnaire and objective tests consisting of a 12-minute walking test and weekly outpatient pedometry. In the rehabilitation group patients were able to walk further and faster, return to work earlier, undertake more housework, and resume normal sexual activity; they were less short of breath and did not experience more angina. However, the rehabilitation course brought little benefit to the patients' perception of well-being and their anxiety about health or their outlook on life. Exercise and advice are important components of a rehabilitation programme, but more attention needs to be given to the psychological aspects of recovery from a heart attack.