Pushups are notoriously brutal, but the challenging move is a staple of most workout routines for a reason: They work the pecs, deltoids, triceps, and core.
And now, a study published in JAMA Open Network says that nailing this full-body move may help you avoid heart problems.
Conducted by a team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the study included more than 1,000 firefighters who participated in routine fitness tests, including a timed pushup assessment. Researchers discovered guys who knocked out an impressive 40 pushups were at 96 percent less risk of developing heart conditions compared to those who could only perform 10.
Many stories about the research emphasized the need to do 40 pushups for a healthier heart. What they fail to highlight is that data showed even doing 11 pushups was associated with decreased heart disease risk, says Dr. Christopher Kelly, M.D. cardiologist at Columbia University Medical Center and author of Am I Dying? Kelly is not associated with the study.
“I think the main headline is that if you can’t do more than 10 you’re in bad shape,” he tells Men’s Health.
The study broke guys into five groups based on pushup abilities: 0 to 10; 11 to 20; 21 to 30; 31 to 40; and more than 40. Researchers compared heart health of guys who could do up to 10 pushups to the other groups. However, they did not look at whether guys who could do more than 40 pushups had fewer heart problems compared to guys who could only do 11 to 20, Kelly explains.
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And while he says the research was well conducted and benefits from having a large sample, it’s important to note that participants were overwhelmingly white. This means the findings can only be applied to nonwhite males, Kelly says. Plus, the study was observational, so this doesn’t mean that cranking out pushups guarantees you a healthy heart.
Still, Kelly believes testing pushup abilities may be helpful for guys who don’t know their blood pressure or cholesterol numbers, two other indicators of heart health. If you can’t do at least 10 pushups, it’s worth considering a doctor’s visit to ensure you’re in good overall health, he advises.
Of course, there are healthy guys who can run three miles but can’t do more than 10 push ups. Kelly says it’s important to remember that pushups were just the example used in this particular study. Research assessing heart health could be conducted using jumping jacks or squats, too.
“There’s nothing magical about pushups,” he says.
The best way to keep your heart healthy is by exercising, eating a healthy diet, and lowering your blood pressure.
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