Men who can’t complete 10 push-ups are at a much greater risk of heart disease or a stroke, a new study has found.
The research, from a team at Harvard University, set out to see if there was a ‘simple, no-cost, surrogate measure of functional status’ which could indicate a person’s heart health.
As physical activity is a vital indicator of health, particularly cardiovascular health, the team looked at the link between push-ups and a person’s risk of heart disease, as they are simple to complete over a short period of time.
The study used a group of over 1,100 men, aged between 21 and 66 years old, an average age of 39.6. The average BMI was 28.7 – just in the ‘overweight’ range – though all the men were physically active.
Participants were assessed over ten years, recording their ‘push-up capacity and exercise tolerance’, with adjustments for age.
The researchers found a strong link between push-up ability and long-term health, stating there were ‘significant negative associations’ between increasing push-up capacity and cardiovascular health. In others words, the more push-ups someone could do, the less at risk of heart problems they were.
The study was published on the JAMA Network Open, where the study authors wrote:
Push-up capacity is a no-cost, fast, and simple measure that may be a useful and objective clinical assessment tool for evaluating functional capacity and cardiovascular disease risk.
The findings suggest that higher baseline push-up capacity is associated with a lower incidence of [cardiovascular] events.
Push-ups were also found to be better indicators of health than treadmill tests, as they wrote:
Surprisingly, push-up capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests [where subjects run while their breathing is measured].
The study found, if the man was able to do 40 or more push-ups in a given time, it was associated with a 97 per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
While those who could do 21-30 push-ups had roughly a quarter of the risk of heart conditions than those who couldn’t do 10.
The study concluded:
The findings suggest that higher baseline push-up capacity is associated with a lower incidence of [cardiovascular] events. Although larger studies in more diverse cohorts are needed, push-up capacity may be a simple, no-cost measure to estimate functional status.
Better start working on my upper-body strength.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.