Give me 40! Push ups can Help Indicate Good Heart Health

How many push ups can you do?

I can do about 15—in good form—and without wanting to cry. But that didn’t come without a lot of practice, and overly dramatic flops to the ground. My ten-year-old self in gym class would be so proud. Depending on your physical ability, push ups can seem intimidating, and they certainly don’t come easy to all. But after seeing this latest study, maybe it’s a skill everyone should start to strive towards.

A recent study found in the JAMA Network  followed a select group of over 1100 Indiana firefighters for ten years. Researchers monitored these men as they performed random physical fitness tests, including doing a consecutive number of push ups. What researchers discovered was that men who could do more than 11 push ups were at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease in their life. Men who could do 40 were considerably lower.

Is this an accurate way to measure someone’s heart health?

“The data seemed to reflect what we hoped it would. That those who are more physically fit tend to do better overall,” says Michael S. Levy, MD, MPH at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. “What is fun about the study is it gives a different metric to look at in terms of looking at one’s physical capacity that doesn’t require extra equipment.”

Pushing for a stronger heart.

The term “cardiovascular” refers to the heart, and is often linked to exercise that gets the blood pumping. Exercises can include running, biking, dancing, and more. Push ups, when done properly, can not only accomplish increased cardiovascular activity, but strengthening, as well.

“For a long time we thought it was about someone’s exercise capacity… cardiovascular outcomes looked mostly at cardio type exercise. However, there is a more recent study suggesting that strength training itself has at least the same amount of cardiovascular benefit…and this in line with what we are seeing in the firefighters study.

Adding push ups into your exercise regimen can certainly benefit your heart health, overall. Dr. Levy stresses a regular routine, no matter what.  “Anything that encourages regular activity is key for me. I believe in getting 150 minutes of activity in anyway you can, every week,“ says Levy.

The JAMA study may have had a small and hyper specific study group, but overall, Levy is hopeful more studies like this will help to bridge this type of science with how we live.

“Certainly I hope we see more studies like this…we really haven’t done a great job of doing simple studies that look at physical activity in a way that does not require expensive equipment or interventions. These are the things that do make people feel better and live longer but they do require habit formations.”

For more information on heart health and the best exercise for your, speak with your primary care physician.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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