Scientists have found that they could think of a simple, practical test for predicting people's heart health, and it's about saying so quickly, "Drop and give me 40".
In a new study led by Harvard University, researchers found that men's ability to perform more than 40 pushups was associated with a significantly reduced risk of serious heart problems over the next 10 years – in some cases, that Risk even reduced by 96 percent.
"Our findings demonstrate that push-up capabilities can be an easy and free way to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease in almost any environment," says Harvard T.H.'s Justin Yang Occupational Health Assistant. Chan School of Public Health.
"Surprisingly, the push-up capacity was more associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease than the results of maximal treadmill testing."
Of course, the ability to do 40 pushups is usually a sign of a high level of physical fitness – especially in middle-aged men. This is the group the researchers studied.
So it's not exactly news that physically fit reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease – such as heart attacks and the development of coronary heart disease.
What's new and useful here, however, is the ability to predict these types of health problems with such a simple, universal test – and with greater accuracy than with expensive devices like treadmills.
Not that the results we have now necessarily apply to everyone. In the study, Yang and his team investigated a relative niche group: 1,104 active male firefighters with a median age of 39.6 at baseline. These participants were observed within a decade.
In the 10-year study, 37 of these men had CVD-related outcomes such as congestive heart failure, sudden cardiac death, or the diagnosis of coronary heart disease.
Interestingly, all but one participant out of all these 37 men were participants who were unable to complete more than 40 pushups during their basic physical exam at the beginning of the study.
Overall, the team saw lower CVD risks in all groups with higher push-up capacity. However, if you could achieve more than 40 push-ups (out of a maximum of 80 in the baseline test), the results will be much healthier for you compared to those whose capacity is low.
"Participants who were able to perform more than 40 pushups reduced their CVD events by 96 percent compared to those who completed fewer than 10 pushups," the authors write in their paper.
It is worth noting that male firefighters are not representative of other areas of society as a whole, so the results shown here would not necessarily be reproduced by other people, as the researchers acknowledge.
However, this is still a finding that will be further taken into account in subsequent studies, as measuring push-up capacity is a relatively simple clinical test that can be performed by healthcare professionals in patients who are physically capable of doing so ,
"Push-Up testing does not require any special equipment, is cost-effective or cost-free, and can be easily performed in almost any environment within 2 minutes providing an objective assessment of functional status," the authors explain.
"It's a quantitative measure that is easily understood by both the clinician and the patient."
If clinicians take on the results, it could be a simple adjustment to the physical examinations of patients already testing their fitness level.
Adaptation may be easy – and science may be obvious – but that does not mean that the snack options may not be lifesaving.
"The push-up capacity is positively related to aerobic capacity and physical fitness," said senior study author and CVD specialist Stefanos Kales to Inverse.
"These types of objective functional markers are generally good predictors of mortality."
The results are reported in JAMA network open,