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Push-ups an effective way to measure heart health in men

Men who can knock out 40 push-ups in a row are 96 per cent less likely to develop heart disease than those who can do fewer than 10, according to a Harvard University study.

The study of 1104 active American firefighters based in Indiana over 10 years concluded that push-ups would be a no-cost, fast and simple clinical measure of evaluating functional capacity and cardiovascular disease.

CVD remains the leading cause of mortality worldwide and four out of five heart disease-related deaths under the age of 65 are male.  Creating a healthier future for men and boys. 

The Harvard research, published in the Jama Network Open, referred to a recent US study which suggested that moderate to vigorous physical activity could significantly reduce premature mortality and prolong life expectancy and that given this robust scientific evidence, the American Heart Association (AHA) had added physical activity to its My Life Check—Life’s Simple 7 campaign to reduce the burden of CVD and improve overall health.

But while the AHA would like to see clinicians physically assess patients, the most commonly used physical activity assessments are the patient’s self-reported history and health and lifestyle questionnaires.

“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," said one of the authors, Justin Yang of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "Surprisingly, push-up capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of submaximal treadmill tests,”

40 push-ups

The firefighters in the Harvard study were tested between 2000 and 2010, and underwent baseline and periodic physical examinations including push-up tests.

The firefighters were instructed to begin push-ups in time with a metronome set at 80 beats per minute. Clinic staff counted the number of push-ups completed until the participant reached 80, missed three or more beats of the metronome, or gave up exhausted.

They were segmented into groups based on the number of push-ups they completed and tracked for 10 years.

Incidences of coronary artery disease and other major CVD were monitored, with adjustments made for age and body mass index.

During the 10-year follow-up, 37 CVD-related outcomes were reported. “Participants able to complete more than 40 push-ups were associated with a significantly lower risk of incident CVD event risk compared with those completing fewer than 10 push-ups,” the authors concluded.

“The findings suggest that higher baseline push-up capacity is associated with a lower incidence of CVD events. Although larger studies in more diverse cohorts are needed, push-up capacity may be a simple, no-cost measure to estimate functional status.”

However, the authors did note that the results could not be generalised to men of other ages who are less active. 

“This study emphasises the importance of physical fitness on health, and why clinicians should assess fitness during clinical encounters,” said co-author Stefanos Kales.


DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT: Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men
(Jama Network Open) 



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