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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: 

Planning Ahead for Meals

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


Not only does planning meals help with eating healthfully on a busy schedule but it can also help you stay on budget. Try sitting down a few minutes before you go grocery shopping and write down a few ideas for meals. Then make your list based on the meals you come up with and see the difference it makes for you. Here’s a simple recipe to add to your plan.

Twice Baked PotatoesItalian Roast Chicken Sandwich

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Spinach Topping

  • 10 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Serve with

  • Whole grain roll or bun
  • Sliced Provolone cheese
  1. Spray crockpot with non-stick spray. Place boneless, skinless chicken in pot with 1 inch water.
  2. Sprinkle chicken evenly with garlic, rosemary, parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil.
  3. Turn crockpot on low or high, depending on how long it will be cooking and according to the directions for your slow cooker.
  4. When chicken is cooked through to at least 165 F, shred with two forks and leave in pot on warm.
  5. Just before eating, sauté spinach in olive oil with salt, garlic and red pepper flakes.
  6. Assemble sandwiches by placing 4 oz. shredded chicken on whole grain bun or roll, top with sautéed spinach and a slice of provolone cheese.