This New York Times Story Made Me Jump Right Out of Bed

And get down on the floor and start doing push-ups.

new study in JAMA Network Open finds that men who can breeze through 40 push-ups in a single exercise session are substantially less likely to experience a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem in subsequent years than men who can complete 10 or fewer.

Researchers at Harvard University, Indiana University and other institutions recently examined the health and fitness of a group of more than 1,500 Indiana firefighters. The firefighters reported each year to a single clinic in Indiana for a medical checkup that included the standard assessments of each firefighter’s weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and other health data. They also completed a submaximal treadmill stress test that estimated their current endurance capacity. They also recorded any cardiovascular problems reported to or uncovered by clinic physicians in the 10 years after each firefighter’s first appointment.

The researchers originally were most interested in the treadmill stress test results. Plenty of past studies have linked high aerobic fitness with a reduced risk for later heart disease and vice versa. The researchers thought that they might be able to quantify how well the treadmill test predicted future heart problems by using the database of firefighters’ health information.

While examining these results, the researchers also happened to notice that more than 1,100 of the firefighters also had completed push-up tests during their yearly exams. The test was quite simple: a clinic staffer counted how many push-ups each man could complete before his arms gave out or he reached 80 and was told he could stop.

The firefighters were categorized by how many push-ups they could complete: zero to 10; 11 to 20; 21 to 30; 31 to 40; and then analyzed the results similar to the way the treadmill test results were studied.

To the researchers’ surprise, push-up capability proved to be a better predictor, statistically, of future heart problems than the treadmill tests.

Men who could complete at least 11 push-ups had less risk of developing heart problems in the following decade than those who could complete fewer than 10, they found. Those men who could get through 40 or more push-ups had 96 percent less risk of heart problems in the next 10 years than those who quit at 10 or fewer.

The findings suggest that push-up capability might be an easy-to-use marker of cardiovascular disease risks, the researchers concluded, at least in men who resemble the firefighters.

It is important to note that this study was observational. It can show that more push-ups are linked with fewer heart problems, but not that arm strength directly improves heart health or whether becoming able to do more push-ups will drop the risk for heart problems over time. It also cannot tell us how the two might be linked. In other words, no cause-effect relationship between the number of push-ups and cardiovascular health is claimed.

Push-up proficiency probably also indicates an interest in healthy eating, regular exercise and normal weight, all of which could contribute to stronger hearts, according to says Dr. Stefanos Kales, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior author of the new study.

So I can’t read a story like this and not test myself.

So I jumped out of bed, did a quick 40 push-ups, got back into bed, and promised that I would reward myself with a snack the next day.

I’m also hoping it’s a once-and-done type of test that’s good for life – literally…

*image from Citizen Confidential

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