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How much exercise do I need to stay heart-healthy?

You should perform 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per day. 

What counts as aerobic activity?

Any activity that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster at a moderate intensity. Walking is a great aerobic activity, and probably the simplest way to start an exercise routine. It is easy, safe and free! Other options include cycling on a stationary or regular bike, swimming, jogging, and other aerobic machines such as elliptical machines and stair climbers.

How do I measure the intensity of my aerobic activity?

The talk test is a simple way to measure intensity. If you are able to sing a song during the activity, then you are doing low-intensity activity and should try to pick up the pace. If you are able to talk, but not sing, during the activity, then you are doing moderate-intensity activity. If you are only able to say a few words without pausing for a breath during the activity, then you are doing vigorous-intensity activity. The goal is to maintain a moderate level of intensity during aerobic activities. Another way of monitoring intensity is to determine your target heart rate. For moderate-intensity aerobic activity, your target heart rate should be between 50% and 70% of your maximum heart rate.  

The American Heart Association offers information, tools and resources to get started walking.

Fitting exercise into your routine

Thirty minutes per day can seem like a lot, but the good news is you can divide it up into two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions per day and still receive the heart-healthy benefits of aerobic activity. Any time of the day is a great time of the day to exercise. You just need to take into account your personal schedule and energy level. The main thing is to consistently make time for exercise. There are lots of ways to get the physical activity that you need; sometimes you just have to get creative!  Here are a few tips to incorporate exercise into your daily routine:

  • Use the stairs when possible.
  • Do yard work such as raking leaves, gardening and mowing (a riding lawn mower doesn't count).
  • Wash your car by hand.
  • Take the dog for a walk. Bring a friend along!
  • During work, take the long way to the restroom or mailroom.
  • Turn shopping into an aerobic activity by walking for 10 minutes straight in the mall before going into a store.
  • Play with your children or grandchildren for 30 minutes.
  • Park farther away at the store.

I’ve had a heart attack. Could cardiac rehabilitation benefit me?

University Hospital offers a cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program to help people with cardiovascular conditions. If you have had chest pain, a heart attack, open heart surgery, coronary angioplasty or stents, heart valve replacement, heart transplant, congestive heart failure or peripheral arterial disease, you may benefit from cardiac rehabilitation.

Cardiovascular Appointments

To schedule an appointment, contact:

Cardiovascular medicine:
573-88-HEART (573-884-3278)

Cardiothoracic surgery: 

Vascular surgery: 

Lighten up your tailgate spread

Ashley Ritzo, RD, LDa clinical dietitian at MU Health Care, enjoys helping people meet their nutrition goals. She offers the following recipe.


The Mizzou Tiger’s football season is in full swing and so are the tailgating parties. Who can resist the smell of barbeque, crisp fall air and a sea of black and gold? No one can deny tailgating is a blast, but the typical tailgate fare can sabotage your healthy lifestyle plans. Of course, moderation is the key — but tailgates and football watch parties happen almost every weekend in the fall and lead into the holiday season. Check out this recipe for a healthier twist on a barbeque classic to lighten up your tailgate spread.

Slow Cooker Pulled Carolina Chicken Sliders
(Makes 12)

This recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken instead of a pork roast. You’ll end up with less fat and calories but still get lots of flavor. Instead of mayonnaise alone, the coleslaw recipe uses equal parts mayonnaise and nonfat Greek yogurt for less calories and an added protein boost.

1/4 cup light mayonnaise or miracle whip
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup low fat milk, plain
1/4 cup low fat milk with 1/4 tsp. lemon juice added
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 bag shredded cabbage

  1. Mix all ingredients except cabbage in large bowl.
  2. Once dressing is mixed, add cabbage 1 cup at a time until desired dressing cover is achieved.
  3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before assembling sliders.

    Slow Cooker Barbeque Pulled Chicken
    2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
    3/4 cup barbeque sauce
    1/4 to 1/2 cup water
    1 cup barbeque sauce
    12 whole wheat slider buns

    1. Trim visible fat from 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast and place into slow cooker.
    2. Cover with water (enough to fill the bottom of the slow cooker about 2 inches) and 1/4 cup barbeque sauce. (Save 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce for later.) Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
    3. Once chicken is cooked all the way through (at least 165 degrees F) remove from slow cooker and transfer to plate. Shred the chicken using two dinner forks.
    4. Pour 90 percent of the remaining liquid out of the slow cooker, then place the shredded chicken and remaining 1/2 cup barbeque sauce back into the pot and mix.
    5. To assemble the sliders, slice buns in half, add about 1/4 cup of shredded barbeque chicken to the bottom half, about 2 tablespoons coleslaw and top with top half of the slider bun.