Can you do more than 10 push-ups?

03/03/2019
CHA researcher believes push-ups can predict long-term health outcomes in men.

If you had the opportunity to play on a sports team in high school or college, hearing the phrase "drop down and do 20" most likely invites memories of long practices and coaches' motivation. Looking forward to weekend and evening games with friends, made the grueling ritual of daily practice a little easier to endure. Pumping out 20, 30 or 40 push-ups was normal routine and helped to build upper body strength and protect from injuries.

As we get older, maintaining the capacity to do more consecutive push-ups might help assess our fitness levels, and thus, provide a "quick and dirty" assessment of future health among middle-aged men of health. Stefanos Kales, MD, MPH, professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School and chief of occupational medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, is the senior author of a study published in JAMA Network Open, which found that middle-aged men who were able to complete more than 40 consecutive push-ups had a significantly lower risk (96%) of incident cardiovascular disease during 10 years of follow-up versus those who were able to do fewer push-ups, par than 10 during the benchmark test. But those who could do 11-20 push-ups had a 75% reduction in CVD risk.

Cardiovascular disease is linked to major health events such as heart failure, stroke and coronary artery disease. The illness refers to symptoms that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the premier cause of death among men in the United States. In 2013, one in four deaths in men was caused by heart disease.

"This study emphasizes the importance of physical fitness on health, and why clinicians should assess fitness during clinical encounters," commented Dr. Kales. The study concludes that push-ups might be a beneficial method for providers to determine cardiovascular disease risk during medical appointments.

Read more of Dr. Kales' research here in an article published in the New York Times.

Cambridge Health Alliance

Contributed By: Cambridge Health Alliance

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health care system committed to serving all members of our communities. We have expertise in primary care, mental health and substance abuse, and caring for diverse and complex populations. CHA patients receive high quality care in convenient neighborhood locations, and have seamless access to advanced care through CHA’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. With over 140,000 patients in Cambridge, Somerville Everett and Boston’s Metro North, CHA is working hard to offer the integrated services its communities need now, and in the future.