How many push-ups can you do? Study finds men who can do 40 have lower risk of heart disease

N'dea Yancey-Bragg

The number of push-ups a man can do may be a good indicator of his risk for heart disease, a new study found.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, compared the heart health of male firefighters over a 10-year period. Those who could do more than 40 push-ups during a timed test at a preliminary examination were 96 percent less likely to have developed a cardiovascular problem compared to those who could do no more than 10 push-ups, according to the report published Friday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

Nearly half of U.S. adults deal with some form of cardiovascular disease as of 2016, according to the American Heart Association.The study's authors believe push-ups may be an easy way to test men's risk for heart disease.

“Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting,” study author Justin Yang said in a statement. “Surprisingly, push-up capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests.”

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The men, who had an average age of 40 and an average body mass index (BMI) of 28.7 at the start of the study, performed both the push-up test and an exercise tolerance test on the treadmill. The participants were instructed to do push-ups in time with a metronome set at 80 beats per minute until they “reached 80, missed 3 or more beats of the metronome, or stopped owing to exhaustion.”

Over the following decade, the men underwent physical examinations and filled out health surveys. Among the 1,104 participants, 37 heart health problems were reported, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, or sudden cardiac death.

The study found significantly lower rates of cardiovascular problems among those with higher push-up capacity compared with the lowest baseline push-up capacity. 

Though men who could do 40 or more push-ups had the lowest risk, participants able to perform 11 or more push-ups also showed reduced risk of subsequent heart health problems.

The study authors note that more research needs to be done before the findings can be generalized to other groups, like women, older people and those who are less active.

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Contributing: Brett Molina, USA TODAY

Follow N'dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How many push-ups can you do? Study finds men who can do 40 have lower risk of heart disease