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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: 

Is breakfast really necessary?

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


Breakfast has long been touted as the most important meal of the day and thought to speed up the body’s metabolic rate, which could help with weight loss. The key, however, is choosing a healthy breakfast with whole foods that will keep your energy levels up and hunger levels down throughout the morning.

Choosing a breakfast high in simple carbohydrates (like sugary cereal) will cause an energy crash mid-morning and you will need to eat more food to feel full. Instead, pair a complex carbohydrate like whole grain bread or a tortilla with a source of protein like eggs, Greek yogurt or nuts. The complex carbohydrate fuels your brain and muscles while the protein promotes satiety — helping you to feel full longer and keeping blood sugar levels stable throughout the morning.

Check out this recipe for a quick breakfast idea that you can make ahead of time and freeze so that it is ready for you in the morning. The combination of complex carbohydrate, protein and vitamin B could help boost your energy and focus throughout the morning.

Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast Burrito
(Recipe makes 1, multiply for desired number)

1 whole grain tortilla
1 egg, scrambled
1 egg white, scrambled
2 T shredded cheese
Mix in options: 1-2 thin slices of chopped, low-sodium ham, low-fat or vegetarian breakfast sausage, green peppers, onion, 1 thin piece of crumbled bacon

1. Scramble and cook egg and egg white in a non-stick skillet sprayed with non-stick spray.

2. Layer eggs, cheese and optional toppings in whole grain tortilla and tightly roll.

3. To freeze, place burritos on a baking sheet. You do not need to cover them at this point. Place the baking sheet with burritos in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the burritos are frozen solid. Remove the burritos from the baking sheet and place each burrito in a plastic zip-top sandwich bag. Be sure to squeeze out all of the excess air in the sandwich bags.

4. Place all of the bags back into the freezer to store until ready to eat.

5. When ready to eat, heat the burritos in the microwave until warm all the way through. Let cool to a comfortable temperature and enjoy.