New Harvard School of Public Health Study Links Push-Ups and Heart Health

Can you do 40 of them consecutively?

heart health

Photo via Getty Images/ Mladen Zivkovic

Ever heard the phrase drop and give me 20? Well, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, 40 is actually the magic number.

Just in time for the second half of February, a month dedicated to heart health awareness, physicians and educators from the Cambridge institution released a new study today linking push-ups and heart health. The findings: men who are able to complete more than 40 reps of this fitness standard are at a significantly lower risk for cardiovascular disease.

Between 2000 and 2010, researchers studied a sample of 1,104 male firefighters, noting the maximum push-ups they could complete, performing treadmill tests, and following-up over the years to observe their cardiovascular health.

What Harvard researchers discovered was that men who exceeded 40 push-ups during their baseline exam were 96% less likely to experience a subsequent outcome of cardiovascular disease than their counterparts who completed fewer than 10 reps.

Moreover, only one out of a total of 37 CVD-related outcomes occurred among the men with a push-up capacity over 40. And it turns out, the maximum number of push-ups you can complete may just be a better indicator of heart health than more complicated and time-consuming standards, like treadmill tests.

“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 study author Justin Yang, an occupational medicine resident in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Surprisingly, push-up capacity was more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk than the results of sub maximal treadmill tests.”

While Harvard’s study only measured the push-up capacity and heart health of active, middle-aged men, and may not be applicable to an entire population, the results reinforce the idea that physical fitness is an important component of heart health.

So whether you’re just easing in to a regular exercise routine or are already an avid fitness junkie, incorporating push-ups into your workouts might just be the key to getting, and keeping, your heart in shape.