You may have heard reports in the news media that doing 40 push-ups can prevent heart disease. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men indicated that there may be a link between push-up capacity and the prevalence of heart disease. Most major media outlets covered the study with varying levels of accuracy.
But can push-ups really prevent heart attacks? The answer is no. Push-ups in and of themselves do not prevent heart disease. But more about that a little later.
Before I explain my answer, let’s look at what the study said and what the take away really is.
“According to Dr. Pearson, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis, the study “…involved 1,104 male firefighters (average age 39.6) from 10 fire departments in Indiana who underwent regular medical checks between 2000 and 2010.
At baseline the participants underwent a physical fitness assessment which included push-up capacity (hereafter referred to as the push-up number (PUN) and treadmill exercise tolerance tests conducted per standardized protocols.”
The study involved 1,104 male firefighters (average age 39.6) from 10 fire departments in Indiana who underwent regular medical checks between 2000 and 2010. At baseline the participants underwent a physical fitness assessment which included push-up capacity (hereafter referred to as the push-up number (PUN)) and treadmill exercise tolerance tests conducted per standardized protocols."
The study ended with a statistical analysis completed on August 11, 2018.
Results: study participants who completed more than 40 push-ups had a whopping 96% lower r ate of cardiovascular disease events than those participants who could complete fewer that 10 push-ups over the ten-year period. The authors concluded that push-ups could be used clinically as a low-cost way of measuring possible future cardiovascular events.
What can be learned from the study?
The study reinforces the results of a mounting research that has indicated that muscular strength is as valuable a marker for disease susceptibility as traditional aerobic conditioning. You can take away from the study that staving off heart disease through resistance training should be considered as an equal part of your fitness program.
There were obvious limitations to the study:
· It was done solely on males
· The population was relatively young, average age of 39.6
· Study participants were active firefighters and not sedentary average Americans
· Those who could perform only 10 push-ups were obviously out of shape and susceptible to disease occurrence for a wide variety of reasons, not only push-up insufficiency.
So, the answer to the question: Can push-ups prevent heart disease? No, they do not prevent heart disease. Push-ups are a marker for the physical condition you are in. The push-up itself does not possess magical powers to prevent disease. It’s your overall physical condition that may prevent disease just like it did for the Indiana fire-fighters.
The key takeaway is to be active and maintain a reasonable level of physical fitness. You can employ push-up if you like them. They are an excellent exercise. But if you don’t like them or can’t do them, find another exercise, or better, a series of exercises that you do consistently that will help you become fit and strong.
Don’t be surprised that at your next checkup your health provider tells you to drop and give him 40.