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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: 

Make Simple Modifications for
Healthier Dishes

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


There may be no escaping traditional holiday foods, but you can make simple modifications to make them a little healthier. Using alternative ingredients and keeping an eye on portion sizes can help you make it through the holidays (mostly) unscathed. Below is a modified version of twice baked potatoes to add to your holiday dinner. This recipe uses reduced fat instead of full-fat cream cheese; nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and garlic and onion powders instead of garlic and onion salts. These few changes result in less fat, calories and sodium with the same great flavor.

Remember, use the plate method as a guide. Try to keep your portion size of starch limited to a quarter of your plate, protein to a quarter of your plate and fill the remaining half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Twice Baked PotatoesTwice Baked Potatoes

  • Nonstick canola or olive oil spray
  • 8 small russet potatoes
  • 8 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese)
  • 1 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • Chicken broth (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place washed potatoes on baking sheet and poke holes in the top of each potato with a fork. Spritz the potatoes with more nonstick spray. Bake potatoes in preheated oven for 1 hour or until potatoes are cooked through.
  3. After potatoes have been cooked, let cool to touch.
  4. Once cooled, carefully slice each potato in half and scoop the insides out into a mixing bowl, leaving about ¼ inch remaining inside of the potato peel. Set peels aside.
  5. Using a hand or stand mixer, mix the potato pulp with cream cheese and Greek yogurt.
  6. Add in green onions and beat until fluffy. You may need to add chicken broth to reach your preferred consistency.
  7. Beat in garlic and onion powder.
  8. Scoop mashed potato mixture back into potato peels and sprinkle with 1-2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese.
  9. Place filled potatoes back into warm oven to melt cheese and serve.