Push-ups and heart disease: Is there a link?
How many push-ups can you do?
If your answer is 40 or more, you might be 96 percent less likely to develop heart problems in the next 10 years, says a new study published in the prestigious Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). Check out the full study here.
The study looked at 1,100 men and found that those with high push-up output were less likely to experience heart problems or heart attacks in subsequent years than those who could only do 10 push-ups or less.
I guess that makes Drill Sergeants caring when they tell their soldiers to "Drop and give me 20!" They just want to make sure they soldiers are less prone to heart disease, right?
What makes this study potentially very useful is that push-ups are an easy way to both build strength and then test yourself—even in your own living room—than many other tests available today that look at current heart health and predict future heart health.
For example, treadmill stress testing (a common test used to predict heart health) is generally much more expensive and complicated, and even challenging to interpret and understand than a simple push-up test you can do at home.
A lack of a simple heart-health test is exactly what prompted the researchers of this recent JAMA study to do this study: They wanted to find one.
To do this, the researchers from various American universities followed a group of 1,500 firefighters from Indiana. Each year, the firefighters reported to a clinic for a medical physical exam, which included monitoring their weight, their cholesterol and blood sugar levels, among other health markers. The men also completed a treadmill stress test each year to gauge their current endurance capabilities.
As they were going through their research, the researchers discovered that 1,100 of the men had also completed a max push-up test each year (the test was capped at 80 push-ups).
They then decided to analyze the push-up data, along with the other medical and treadmill data, to discover if there was a link between push-up abilities and future heart problems. They divided the 1,100 men into various categories: zero to 10 push-ups, 11 to 20, 21 to 30, 31 to 40 and 40-plus.
The result: Push-up ability was a better predictor of future heart health than both the medical exam results and the treadmill stress test. Specifically, those who couldn’t do at least 11 push ups had the greatest risk of developing heart problems in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the men who were able to do 40 push-ups or more were found to be 96 percent less likely to have problems with their heart in the next 10 years.
Pretty statistically significant…
While more research obviously needs to be done, it makes a lot of sense—not necessarily that shoulder or tricep strength necessary for push-ups is related to keeping your heart healthy—but that being able to do a lot of push-ups is potentially a good indicator of overall fitness. And this overall fitness, as opposed to the push-ups per se, is then linked to a healthier heart.
So... How many push-ups can you do?