A friend (a practicing neurosurgeon) sent me an email the other day about cardiovascular health that really caught my attention. The subject line read;
“Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men.” (1)
I quickly went to check the validity of such a statement. I mean, could it be? A simple, no-cost, exercise that can be used as a tool to predict future cardiovascular events?
The study looked at whether a clinician could determine an association between a person’s fitness level and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. All while using an office-based assessment tool.
Physical inactivity, lifestyle and increased CVD risk have all been well documented. (2–5) The importance of researching this topic is obvious. Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of mortality in the world. In fact, The World Health Organization has posted that;
- CVD is the number 1 cause of death globally – more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause. An estimated 17.9 million people died from CVD in 2016, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 85% are due to heart attack and stroke.
- Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented – by addressing behavioral risk factors. These include;
- Tobacco use
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Harmful use of alcohol using population-wide strategies. (6)
A Retrospective Longitudinal Cohort Study
This study followed over 1100 occupationally active men. Firefighters, 18 years of age and older, for over 10 years, stratified into 5 groups based on two factors;
- Fitness level
- The number of push-ups they could complete.
Baseline and follow-up physical examinations were completed within a 7-year window. It included exercise tolerance in addition to push-up ability. The outcomes were adjusted for age and body mass index among other variables (BMI).
When the statistical analysis was completed in 2018 researchers found;
A significant negative association between baseline push-up capacity and increased CVD risk. This was across 10 years of follow-up.
So how many push-ups were associated with decreased CVD risk? Participants able to complete more than 40 push-ups had a significant reduction with risk of CVD. This was compared with those completing fewer than 10 push-ups.
The findings of this study suggest that;
Performing 40 or more push-ups significantly decreases the incidence of heart disease events among active, adult men.
As a clinician, it is worthwhile to assess the functional capacity of our patients. Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Especially if you are taking medication. Alternatively, it would be interesting to see studies observing females as well as different age-groups to see if the results could be replicated.
Now drop and give me 40!