A new study has found that the ability to do a load of push-ups could be a good sign of a healthy heart.
Now you may be thinking, duh, but the ability to assess cardiovascular health quickly and easily could help to save lives and keep you and a lot of other guys healthy.
The study, led by Justin Yang, an occupational medicine resident at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, tested the stamina of a group of middle-aged male firefighters. The study found that those who were able to do more than 40 push-ups in a row had a 96% lower risk of being diagnosed with heart disease or experiencing other heart problems over a 10-year period.
This is when compared to men who could only manage 10 push-ups or less.
Limitations and implications of the study
OK, so the study only looked at male firefighters. These are guys who already have very active jobs, so it’s still unclear how these findings would translate to your average Joe.
However, as Yang pointed out “pushup capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk.” There are plenty of very basic tests used in the health and fitness industry that allow you to “eyeball” a person’s health. You may have seen or heard of doctors using “treadmill tests” to evaluate fitness levels, with the patient running on the treadmill while the doctor monitors their heart rate. However, this does require access to a treadmill which my local GP surgery really doesn’t have space for.
While these tests are by no means conclusive, they could be a good way to start a conversation in order to take heart health more seriously.
And before you dismiss this study as an excuse to watch firefighters do a load of push-ups, this was a 10-year study that charted any cardiovascular event – such as a diagnosis of coronary artery disease, heart failure or cardiac arrest – of more than 1,100 Indiana firefighters (with an average age of 39).
37 cardiovascular events were observed during the length of the study, and only one of them occurred among the men who completed more than 40 pushups.
Those who could do 11 or more pushups had a lower risk of cardiovascular events, compared with those who could do 10 or fewer, the study found. And men who could do more than 40 pushups had the largest reduction in risk.
But still, firefighters are not normal guys, and there are plenty of other factors that could limit your ability to perform more than 10 push-ups in a row such as age, body mass index (BMI) and aerobic fitness level. But it’s a good starting point.
“This study emphasizes the importance of physical fitness on health and why clinicians should assess fitness during doctors’ visits” – study senior author Stefanos Kales, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School.
There will be more research into the subject, but for now, drop and give me at least 10!