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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: 

Cooking With Heart-Healthy Avocados

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


A recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed eating one avocado per day helped to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in adults. While avocados are a high-fat food and you should consider calorie content, the type of fat avocados contain is predominantly monounsaturated fat — the best kind for your heart. In addition to this heart-healthy fat, one avocado also has more than twice the potassium of a medium banana and 13 grams of fiber — both also great for you heart by helping to control blood pressure and keep cholesterol levels lower.

Check out this recipe for a homemade burrito bowl that combines the heart-healthy benefits from avocado with cholesterol-fighting black beans and antioxidant-rich brown rice.

Cooking with AvocadoBurrito Bowl
Makes 4 servings

  • 1 cup dry brown rice
  • ½ cup salsa verde
  • 1 cup home-cooked or low-sodium canned black beans
  • 8 ounces grilled chicken (leftover works best, but could also use frozen)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce


  • 2 medium, ripe avocados
  • 1 Tablespoon light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • Sprinkle of cayenne pepper, to taste
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoon chopped tomato
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped red onion


  1. Bring 1 ½ cups water plus salsa verde to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, add brown rice, cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender.
  2. While rice is cooking, prepare the guacamole. In a small or medium bowl, mash the avocado with a fork. Once most of the fruit is mashed, add sour cream or Greek yogurt and lime juice. Mix well. Add seasonings and stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in chopped tomato and red onion.
  3. Spread frozen corn kernels on baking sheet and roast in oven pre-heated to 400 F for 10-15 minutes or until corn turns slightly brown and caramelizes.
  4. In a bowl, layer ¼ of the cooked brown rice, ¼ cup black beans, 2 ounces grilled chicken, ¼ of the roasted corn kernels, ½ cup shredded lettuce, 3 Tablespoons guacamole and serve.